Monday, September 24, 2012

The TLS. Letter to the Editor — Whatever happened to ‘serious’ and ‘authoritative’?


TLS, September 7 2012
What has happened to editorial judgement at the TLS? What on earth led the editor to commission the patronisingly offensive twaddle from such a pro-Francoist apologist as Michael Seidman in his review of Paul Preston’s “The Spanish Holocaust”?
Apart from complaining about Preston’s ‘discrediting the moral capital of the Nationalists’, Seidman’s principal objection appears to be the use of the term “Holocaust” to describe the carnage triggered by the “rebellious officers, whom Hitler and Mussolini quickly aided” (the implication being that neither regime had been complicit in the plans to topple the Republic). This objection to the word Holocaust is either academic pedantry or a zealous political attempt by Seidman to ‘own’ the term on behalf, exclusively and of course unbidden, of the Jewish victims of Nazi anti-semitism at the expense of the other 5, 6 or 7 million victims of the Nazi killing machine — anti-Nazis (Jewish and non-Jewish), intellectuals, socialists, anarchists, communists, liberals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, the mentally ill, the disabled, etc., etc. — between January 1933 and May 1945.

I have yet to come across the “avalanche of recent literature” Seidman writes about as ‘challenging’ Preston’s ‘antiquated views’ on the repression in the Republican zone, that it was
part of a largely deliberate and calculated effort to eliminate “fascists” (very broadly defined), rightists — and also members of the clergy, who were perceived as fifth columnists and potential obstacles to workers’ or people’s revolution. The murders were closely connected to, and usually approved by, the parties of the Left, Socialists, Communists and anarchists.’
How Seidman (or anyone else for that matter) concludes that there was such a conspiracy between such disparate and contending groups on the ‘Left’ escapes me, and reflects poorly on his understanding of the history, politics and culture of Spain between the two world wars. Had such a conspiracy existed it was more likely to have been targeted by the national and regional leaderships against their own known dissidents – rank-and-file militants and intellectuals who challenged party hegemony – not the unknown fifth-columnists caught behind Republican lines who more often than not joined the labour unions, including the CNT, and the communist and socialist parties and often proved to be the most ‘ultra’ of the party faithful.
Seidman speaks as though everything kicked off in 1936. Murder and mayhem on both sides: agreed. Grisly murder tainted by grudge, self-interest, gain, etc., it covered the whole spectrum. No one was above reproach, agreed, and as I relate in my own recent 3-volume work, ¡Pistoleros! – 1918-24”, there was no shortage of offenders in the anarchist camp either.
However, Seidman’s own figures taken from the period “during the Spanish conflict” (I’m assuming he means 1936-’39, i.e. the civil war) show a 13 to 5 kill rate in favour of the Nationalists (fascists, Catholic authoritarians and “One Spainers”). The latter explains how generals such as Cabanellas — who were freemasons and/or republicans under the early Republic and monarchy — morphed into “fascists” in 1936. Or were they perhaps always of the same authoritarian mind-set? A mind-set they shared with many (until yesterday monarchists) “new” republicans, explaining incidents such as the bloody repression at Castilblanco in 1931, Arnedo in 1932 and Casas Viejas in 1933, , etc., and the establishment of the Assault Guard as a public order-only police force. The notoriously “republican” and freemason Eduardo López Ochoa led the crackdown and repression of the Asturias uprising in 1934. “Republican” did not necessarily mean “leftist” or even “liberal”. Hence the scepticism in CNT ranks. See Melchor Rodriguez’s article “April to April” (KSL Bulletin) counting those who perished at the hands of the new Republic’s security forces.
Infatuation with romanticism about the Republic tends to blind us to its rougher edges as experienced by the poor and the working classes. The Church, the propertied classes and the One-Spainers might have taken offence at some of the rhetoric and legislation from the Republic, but they never had to suffer batons, bullets and artillery fire as did the workers. Was General Sanjurjo, after his attempted coup against the Republic in 1932, punished as severely as the peasant Seisdedos or the rebel coalminers and peasants of Upper Llobregat? It would be interesting to have the details of the differential treatment.
The Republic did not make mere disaffection an offence, unless it was translated into action in the form of desertion, obstruction, practical opposition. But under the Francoist’ Order 108 from the National(ist) Defence Junta (13/09/36) provision was made for the confiscation of goods from those deemed to have been “directly or subordinately responsible, by action or incitement” for opposition to the Nationalist Movement.
The Francoists’ Political Accountability Law of 9/2/39 (providing for confiscation of assets) was made retrospectively applicable to events from October 1934 (which must be some sort of a clue to the legislators’ mindset— why not 1931, ’32, ’33?), and in the event of the accused’s having died in the meantime all liability and penalties arising therefrom became applicable to his/her heirs or relations. Two thirds of these confiscation proceedings applied to working class “culprits” and most of these had to be set aside, not from melted hearts, but due to the lack of seizable assets. Fines were applied and enforced against republicans and others who had been shot back in 1936. The Popular Front socialist (PSOE) deputy Vicente Martin Romera (murdered on 7 August 1936 in Madrid on the orders of Colonel Cascajo) was hit with a post-war and posthumous fine of 125,000 pesetas which, his family had to pay in order to recover “free access to his assets”.
Fines and confiscations were often accompaniments (before as well as after the fact) to executions. In Albacete 43 per cent of those sentenced by courts martial had Political Accountability files opened on them and 80 per cent of those punished were farm labourers or manual workers. In 1942 an amendment to this Law replaced economic sanctions with positive disbarments before the law was repealed on 13/4/45, as far as fresh proceedings were concerned. Those already in train were pursued until 10/11/66. I don’t want romanticise the Republic but (barring a communist take-over) I doubt that it would have carried victimisation to those lengths.
As for Sediman’s extraordinary statement that “Nationalists may have integrated proportionally more POWs into their army than any other civil war belligerents in twentieth-century Europe” – Has it not occurred to Seidman that the POWs had little choice in the matter, the other option being a firing squad and a mass grave? This reference to the Nationalist recycling of POWS into their army is intended to counter Preston’s allegations regarding a “programme of extermination”, but does it? Into which units were they recycled? How were they officered, disciplined and deployed? In what sectors were they deployed? Facing which republican forces? Any chance they might have had a deterrent used against retreaters? (Machine guns à la Trotsky in the Russian civil war or à la Stalin in the Second World War? What was their rate of attrition as compared to Nationalist “volunteer” units or regulars? I do not know. I merely ask. In short such recycling was not necessarily in contrast to extermination plans but might well have been integral to them — using the enemy to kill the enemy while clearing one’s rearguard of the openly disaffected.) In his own Republic of Egos, Seidman admits to a manpower shortage in Nationalist Spain — a shortage of workers not of troops.
As to Preston’s so-called “exculpation” of the Spanish left and his alleged tendency to over-state the Soviet influence on the Paracuellos massacre of suspected or known anti-republicans by a motley crew of Spanish leftists, that massacre seems to have emanated from, among others, Santiago Carrillo, late of the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU) and by then of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) — and little was done by that last body that was not filtered through the politburo and its Comintern advisers.
Seidman’s point about Catalan Carlists in the Nationalist armies: does it not suggest that there might be some justification in suspicions of a 5th column operating in the rural areas of Catalonia where these characters came from, and of typical Requetés who might not have been of an age for military service but might have served in other ways? This is not to excuse but rather, perhaps, to partly explain the murderous treatment inflicted on right-wingers and the Catholic clergy.
When Preston suggests (according to Seidman) that the “radicalism” of republican leaders was more rhetorical than actual, the point is redundant. President Azaña’s alleged talk of “making mincemeat” of the army (“triturar el ejército”) with his reforms created as much (maybe more) alarm and rancour in those circles as any strike violence. Likewise the Jacobin, Enlightenment critique of the Church. The CEDA grew out of a desire to defend Catholic principles regardless of the regime, the eternal against the circumstantial: that’s what CEDA’s “accidentalism” was about: a focus on the (un) real over the formal. A republic observant of Catholic values was good, a monarchy unobservant of them, bad. Well, ditto libertarian or leftist values, surely?
Preston may underestimate the “street” attacks after February 1936 on property but Seidman needs to bear in mind the “Eat Republic” taunts of the right during the bienio negro, the legacy of the October ’34 repression, the severe curtailment of union rights, etc., the blatant flirtation of the Spanish Right with authoritarianism and fascism elsewhere in Europe, the Austrian example of 1934, etc. Is there just a chance that the street was moved by this and its own issues rather than some high-flown rhetoric from some republican luminary? He is right in what he says about the general downplaying of the rougher face of the class struggle but I would ask him this: how “safe” were the lives, liberties, offspring and roof over the heads of the NON-rightists and the NON—property-owner? As someone who specialises in the minutiae of revolt in all its uncomfortable and inconvenient manifestations that do not fit into neat ideological models, Seidman ought to trace a typical worker’s life 1923-1943 and spot the improvements. They might not overlap the defined outlines of Republic, Monarchy, Dictatorship and (again) Dictatorship. Mark Two. Look past the formal to the REAL is what he seems to be saying but if Preston’s focus is on working “from above”, a lot of this is going to be missed. Life isn’t always played out by the speechmakers or in print. The CNT was forever referring to the anonimos and there were anonimos players and factors outside the CNT as well.
The murder of Calvo Sotelo was indeed a “cold-blooded killing”. What were Casas Viejas and the many other similar incidents? It was not the government or judiciary that made a scandal of Casas Viejas, was it? What has Seidman to say of some working-class “Franco” pushed into “revolution” by Casas Viejas or the repression of some strike?
His mention of the Generalisimo’s Special Military Tribunal dismissing 15,000 cases in ’36-’38. How many of those named in the charges were already dead? Executed? Escaped? And another 15,000 were upheld and presumably sentencing followed. He cites the decline in death sentences “after 1941” (i.e. after 3 years of mass executions) but he misses out any “contextualization” such as references to WW2, (remember, this would have been about the time that Ramón Serrano Súñer was telling the Germans that Spain had no interest in the fate of any Spanish Reds in Nazi hands) Spain’s difficulty in feeding herself and the death rate in Francoist prisons from disease and starvation, aggravated by lack of medical attention and the regular use of torture. Better for the statistics if many of those prisoners died off-site, unemployed and unemployable, blacklisted, homeless, dependant on the charity of the Church or the social services wing of the Falange, hardly the hallmark of mercy. And he fails to mention the spike in executions in 1947-49, a full decade after the war and after all those exiles, convictions and executions in the post-war years.
As to Seidman’s comments about the Nationalists’ rural policies, was it the case that maybe the runaway estate-owners had not yet returned, that the workforce was seriously depleted due to so many men of economic age serving at the front and that the offering of incentives to the “squatter” peasants might have been a makeshift stratagem for the duration of the war pending the recovery of all of Spain’s productive land? Kill the opposition, jail the lesser offenders, fine as many as you can, conscript those of serviceable age and encourage (!) the rest to step up production?
In 1957 a Juan García Suárez was executed but not before the local bishop of the Canaries wrote to Franco in person to remind him of the “thousands of people” whom the “Nationalists” had killed in the Canaries. Bishop Pildain wrote: “Most Excellent Sir Don Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Spanish Chief of State. Most Excellent Sir: I, Antonio Pildaín y Zapiain, bishop of the apostolic diocese of Las Palmas, find myself obliged, as pastor of the souls and spiritual father of Canarians to ask that you commute the capital sentence on Juan García Suárez, sentenced to death at a council of war held in this place. That death would be looked at very dimly in the Canaries where nothing happened, since all the barbarity committed hereabouts came from the Nationalists and not the republicans. I would rather not go too deeply into this matter and remind your excellency of everything that happened on this island, especially in the Jinámar gorge where several thousands perished.” (Santos Julia [editor] Victimas de la Guerra Civil, Temas de Hoy, pp. 335-336). Pildaín made an oral statement to historians José Luis Morales and Miguel Torres, one of whose recollections was: “Bishop Pildaín mentioned to me that he reckoned from the figures that between 5,000 and 6,000 people must have perished hereabouts. Most of them vanished.”
Contrast the “nothing happened” with the 5,000-to-zero relative kill rate in the Canaries! At what point were the Canaries under military threat? If  “nothing happened” we can take it for granted that the islands fell without serious resistance. Am I indulging in victimology when I ask what implications this might have for attempts to equate republican and Nationalist violence?
I could go on and on, but I just don’t recognise Seidman’s terms of reference, especially his point that “The Spanish counter-revolutionaries did not wage a racial war against Jews, but concentrated on combating revolutionaries who threatened their lives, property and faith”. Who is he talking about? Franco and his cohort of clerico-fascist murderers were never “counter-revolutionaries”, they were reactionary golpistas who — with the help of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and influential elements in the British Establishment — overthrew a legitimately elected republican government (whatever one might think of that government) and massacred who knows exactly how many tens of thousands of innocents — who posed no threat whatsoever to life, property or faith (as witnessed to by Bishop Antonio) — in an attempt to counter perceived “proletarian barbarism” and roll Spain back 400 years to the Medieval Catholic values of the Holy Roman Empire.
No, in fact, the “counter-revolutionaries” during the Spanish Revolution and Civil War were Azaña, Prieto, Negrín, Companys, Jesús Hernández, Federica Montseny, Mariano R. Vázquez, and all the other ‘notable leaders’ on the Republican side; nor was it fascists, fifth-columnists, priests and nuns whom they were primarily targeting behind republican lines, but the thousands of revolutionaries and rank-and-file militants who, between July 1936 and December 1937, challenged their plots and manoeuvres to restore and consolidate bourgeois order.
The decision to give Paul Preston’s invaluable work on the Francoist Holocaust to the sophistry of such a blatantly pro-Francoist reviewer such as Michael Seidman reflects poorly on the formerly rigorous editorial standards of the TLS under previous editors such as Arthur Crook and John Gross (and chief subs such as Nicolas Walter). Whatever happened to ‘serious’ and ‘authoritative’?
Yours, etc.,
Stuart Christie

Major Victory for Quebec Students, Environmental Activists

Major Victory for Quebec Students, Environmental Activists
Richard Fidler

Their demonstrations have shaken Quebec in recent months, and yesterday [September 20th] students and environmentalists won major victories.

At her first news conference as premier, Pauline Marois announced that her Parti Québécois government had cancelled the university tuition fees increase imposed by the Charest Liberal government, and would repeal the repressive provisions of Law 12 (formerly Bill 78) Charest had imposed in his efforts to smash the province's massive student strike. Among other things, this will remove the restrictions on public demonstrations and the threat of decertification of student associations.

In addition, Marois has ordered the closing of Gentilly-2, Quebec's only nuclear reactor, while promising funding to promote economic diversification to offset job losses resulting from the shutdown. And she will proceed with her promise to cancel a $58-million government loan to reopen the Jeffrey Mine, Quebec's last asbestos mining operation.
End to Shale Gas Exploration

The new Natural Resources minister, Martine Ouellet, followed up by announcing an end to shale gas exploration and development in Quebec. “I do not see the day when there will be technologies that will allow their safe development,” she said. Residents of dozens of Quebec communities have been mobilizing against shale gas. As of March, there were 31 wells already drilled, and 18 had been fracked. The shale gas industry, which has spent some $200-million to date in Quebec, had plans to dig up to 600 wells a year by 2015.

A former president of Eau Secours!, a water protection group, Ouellet is one of three new ministers with strong environmentalist credentials, the others being Environment minister Daniel Breton, a co-founder of the Parti Vert, the Green party, and his deputy Scott McKay, a former Montréal city councillor and one-time leader of the Greens.

Student leaders were jubilant at the cancellation of the tuition fees increase. “Bravo to the striking students,” tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former co-spokesman for the CLASSE, the most militant of the student groups that led the unprecedented four-month student strike in Quebec's “printemps érable.”
“Total Victory” for Students

“It's a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the FEUQ, the university students’ federation. “Sept. 20 will be etched in the annals of history in Quebec,” tweeted the FECQ, the college students’ federation. The students also welcomed Marois’ announcement that her government would maintain the $39-million boost to financial assistance introduced by the Liberals to offset their tuition increase.

The PQ government is committed to holding a summit on education as early as this fall to debate and propose new arrangements for funding higher education in Quebec. Marois says she will be defending her party's proposal to index tuition fee increases, which she says amounts to a freeze on current levels. The CLASSE pledged that it will continue to fight for free tuition, as did Québec solidaire.

Marois also announced cancellation of the $200 per person health tax imposed by Charest, which would have brought almost a billion dollars into the government coffers. The loss of this user fee will be made up by a tax increase on incomes over $130,000 a year and a 25 percentage point decrease in the capital gains exemption, she said.

Marois also confirmed her determination to bring in a balanced budget by 2014, which means that these popular decisions will no doubt be followed by major cutbacks in spending in other areas, yet unspecified.

However, it was a good day for the new Parti Québécois government. Predictably, it was met by cynical reactions in the capitalist media. Typical were the editors of the Montreal Gazette, who expressed the hope that the right-wing opposition parties would come up with what they described, in a mixture of hope and prediction, as “a persuasive alternative to what might probably be the shambles of PQ governance.”[1]

In a more sombre vein, Le Devoir's environment columnist Louis-Gilles Francoeur drew attention to the powerful business interests who will be quick to campaign against even modest efforts that threaten their profits.

“The lobbies that profit from the lack of rules governing wetlands, for example, have already claimed the head of Thomas Mulcair, then Environment minister.[2] The review of [Charest's] Plan Nord and the changes that will be made by minister Ouellet – to whom we owe some caustic analyses of the proposed overhaul of the Mining Act – will no doubt provoke a groundswell of protest from the major investors... for whom the green economy is still an irritant and not a potential.

“Then we will see whether minister Breton took his dreams for reality when he declared that the greens were now in power....” •

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life on the Left.


1. Later changed in on-line versions to “what may likely be,” etc.

2. Mulcair was Charest's Environment minister, who quit and later joined the federal New Democrats, whom he now leads. (Francoeur's column is locked to non-subscribers.)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Crisis Culture and the Waning of Revolutionary Politics (Stephen Best, IJofID)

pre-Occupy, but we tend over-estimate the importance [or perhaps, rather, the influence] of Occupy.

The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, vol.3, no.2, (April 2007)

Introduction: Crisis Culture and the Waning of Revolutionary Politics  

Since the “election” of George Bush in 2000 (and his “re-election” in 2004), the tragedy of 9/11, the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003 respectively, and ever more  indicators of human-induced global climate change, the crisis in the social and natural worlds has sharpened considerably. The deterioration of society and nature demands  a profound, systematic, and radical political response, yet in recent decades Left opposition movements have grown weaker in proportion to their importance. As the globe spirals ever deeper into disaster, with all things becoming ever more tightly knit into the tentacles of global capitalism, and as oppositional voices propose programs of reform and moderation at best, there is an urgent need for new conceptual and political maps and compasses to help steer humanity into a viable mode of existence. Karl Marx's 1843 call for a "ruthless criticism of everything existing" has never been more pressing and profound  than in contemporary times  of predatory global capitalism, neoliberalism, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the demise of social democracies, the police states of George Bush and Tony Blair, the assault on liberties and the criminalization of dissent, species extinction, rainforest destruction, resource wars, and global warming.

Given the advances of capitalism and the cooptation and retreat of radical politics, it is urgent that genuine oppositional viewpoints be kept alive and nurtured in intellectual, public, and political forums. When one considers the paucity of radical viewpoints that still survive, the project of Inclusive Democracy immediately comes to mind as one of the few, if not the only, coherent and comprehensive theoretical and political frameworks for systemic social change. Inclusive Democracy aims to develop a radical theoretical analysis of ― and political solution to ― the catastrophic social and environmental impact of the market economies spawned by Western capitalist nations. This approach is inclusive in two senses. First, it seeks to transform all realms of public life, economic, political, legal, cultural, educational, and so on. Second, it aims to incorporate a wide diversity of social voices (or at least those legitimate expressions of difference not dedicated to ending difference and democracy by imposing authoritarian, elite, and fascist systems onto others) into revitalized public spheres. It is a form of direct democracy in its synthesis of classical Greek and libertarian socialist outlooks, a perspective that seeks to abolish all hierarchies and dissolve power into confederated local direct, economic, social and ecological democracies.

Cultures in Crisis

The Inclusive Democracy project was developed in the 1990s by Takis Fotopoulos in the pages of Society and Nature and Democracy and Nature. These journals were dedicated to analyzing the broad social crisis, the ecological crisis, and their interrelationships. In 1997, Fotopoulos systematized his ideas in a landmark work entitled, Towards An Inclusive Democracy: The Crisis of the Growth Economy and the Need for a New Liberatory Project (London/New York: Cassell/ Continuum)[1]. The international character and influence of Inclusive Democracy is evident in the publication of Fotopoulos’ book in Italian, Greek, French, Latin American, and German editions (with Chinese and Arab editions also on the way), and debates and contributions generated by theorists throughout Europe, the UK, the US, and Latin America.[2]
The immense crisis that Inclusive Democracy seeks to analyze and solve is two-fold, defining both the realities of global capitalism and the numerous failed attempts to oppose it. Inclusive Democracy theorizes a multidimensional crisis (political, economic, social, ecological, and cultural) in the objective world which sharpened after World War II. Fuelled by new forms of science and technology, military expansion, and aggressive colonization of Southern nations, capitalism evolved into a truly global system, one inspired by neoliberal visions of nations as open free markets that flow and grow without restrictions and regulations, driven by multinational corporations such as ExxonMobil and Monsanto, anchored in transnational institutions and courts like the WTO, and homogenizing nations into a single economic organism though arrangements such as NAFTA. As formulated by Fotopoulos, and developed in dialogue with radical theorists throughout the world, the Inclusive Democracy project considers the ultimate cause of the present multidimensional crisis to be the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of various elites. This power is maintained and reproduced by the dynamics of the global market economy and its political complement, “representative democracy” – a mystification that Fotopoulos dismisses as a form of “liberal technocracy” which disempowers citizens in the name of representing their interests. 

Yet, where one might expect this multifaceted crisis to generate an appropriate political response, another crisis has formed. Theoretical and political opposition to global capitalism – in any significant and truly radical form embodying  democratic social and political alternatives ― has collapsed. Elitism, bureaucratic domination, and the destruction of nature was grotesquely replayed in various “communist” or “socialist” states that intended or alleged to present an “alternative” to capitalist systems. The European tradition of Social Democracy, dating back to Edward Bernstein and the German Social Democratic Party in the early 20th century, presented itself as an alternative to both capitalism and bureaucratic socialism, but unavoidably succumbed to the failed logic of reformism that attempted to repair rather than radically transform  a system with inherent structural flaws. Social Democracy mounted no effective alternative or opposition and today is little but a museum piece amidst increasing the privatization and market domination of European nation states.

Inclusive Democracy seeks to show how the discourse of democracy has been distorted and perverted in order to build empires, dig graveyards, and wage wars in the name of  “freedom, democracy, and progress” – three of the most distorted concepts in the modern lexicon, to which in the post-9/11 era we must also add “security.” Yet no discourse or concept is more important today than that of democracy, and so Fotopoulos tries to clarify its real meaning and redeem the concept from limitless forms of corruption. In Western “liberal” form, for instance, Fotopoulos notes that “democracy has become a spectator sport in which the general public chooses sides among contending groups of experts.”[3] It is urgent, he insists, to recover the authentic meaning of democracy, such as relates to autonomy, citizenship, education, and the self-management of people. 

Since the 1960s, more current forms of critique and resistance have emerged, but none proved to be significant or enduring forces of opposition and radical change. From the “new social movements” and subsequent “identity politics” formations (feminism, civil rights, gay and lesbian liberation, multiculturalism, anti-nuclear groups, and so on) to apolitical, reformist, and esoteric postmodernism; from the Green movement to the mystical tendencies of deep ecology, Fotopoulos finds organizations and political expressions that are reformist, subjectivist, irrational, or coopted, leaving a barren political scene devoid of significant resistance to ever-destructive forms of capitalist domination. Beginning in the 1990s, a far more promising approach – variously described as “anti-globalization, “alter-globalization,” or “globalization from below” (as opposed to “globalization from above”) ― has emerged to challenge transnational capitalism. Unlike the fragmentary nature of identity politics, alter-globalization movements often advance radical visions and have crossed various political lines and geographical boundaries to form alliances against global capitalism. While recognizing potential in these movements, Fotopoulos nonetheless finds that they lack an “anti-systemic” perspective (i.e., a  holistic and radical critique of the totality of capitalist systems) and viable democratic alternative to market domination and manifold social hierarchies. 

For Fotopoulos, a truly “radical” or “anti-systemic” viewpoint has a social not individual emphasis. It upholds the importance of rational debate and criticism over mystical and subjective turns, avoids utopian fantasies in order to focus on real challenges and possibilities for change, links environmental problems to social and political problems, and understands capitalism and hierarchical social systems as interrelated problems that require overarching and coherent solutions. Moreover, such a standpoint insists on the crucial importance of articulating compelling alternatives to capitalism and of building transitional strategies. Its key objective is to tackle the most crucial and basic problem of all ― the unequal distribution of political and economic power ― and to solve it in favour of genuine democracy, rather than leaving corrosive and destructive arrangements intact so that the social and ecological crisis can deepen still further.  
Where some people concede defeat, others declare this to be the best of all possible worlds (I'd hate to see the worst) with the entrenchment of Western “liberal democracy” (Francis Fukuyama). And while these self-ascribed prophets announce the “end of history” with the “death of the masses” (Jean Baudrillard), others fight for meaningless reforms and lesser evils (liberals, labor bureaucrats, democrats, et. al.). Against the prevailing forms of complacency and nihilism, one of the first conditions of change is the realization that things could and must be profoundly different than as organized by the prevailing social prisms/prisons. Whereas Inclusive Democracy diagnoses crises, one of the gravest and most fundamental problems today is a crisis of the political imagination. Social critique and change in the slaughterhouse of global capitalism needs to be guided and informed by powerful descriptions of what is ― the degraded forfeiture of human potential in a world where over a billion people struggle for mere existence. But social transformation  must also be inspired by bold new visions of what can be, by imaginative projections of how human beings might harmoniously relate to one another and the living/dying earth. 

Radicals such as Herbert Marcuse and Murray Bookchin have recognized that so-called "utopian" visions are not ― when authentic ― starry-eyed dreams of abstract ideals, but rather can be empirically grounded in actual social tendencies and existing potential for a rational, egalitarian, and ecological society. It must be emphasized, however, that Inclusive Democracy  explicitly differentiates itself from the “objective” rationalism of the Enlightenment, such as both Marcuse and Bookchin adopt, since “the project for a democratic society cannot be grounded on an evolutionary process of social change, either a teleological one (such as Marx’s dialectical materialism) or a non-teleological one (such as Bookchin’s dialectical naturalism).”[4] 

Still, as Fotopoulos emphasizes “the fact that no grand evolutionary schemes of Progress are supported by History does not mean that we should overemphasise the significance of the ‘social imaginary’ (in the Castoriadian terminology) at the expense of the ‘systemic’ elements.’”[5] On this basis, the Inclusive Democracy project sees History “as the continuous interaction between creative human action and the existing institutional framework, i.e. as the interaction between the ‘imaginary’ and the ‘systemic’ elements, the outcome of which is always unpredictable.”[6] Similarly, Inclusive Democracy envisions a true democratic society to be “ a rupture, a break in the historical continuity that  the heteronomous society has historically established.”[7]
The Genealogy of Marketization

Beginning with the premise that capitalism is a grow-or-die system antithetical to democracy, human needs, and ecological sustainability, Fotopoulos provides a valuable overview of the restructuring of global capitalism. In his genealogy of the modern state and economy, he traces the “marketization” process (which transforms all goods and services into commodities as it transmogrifies the citizen into the consumer) through three phases: liberal, statist, and neoliberal. In the classic liberal stage, the market became separated from society for the first time in history, as competition within capitalist nations played out with little or no social control. In the statist stage, which in the U.S. emerged after the depression of the 1930s, the economy is partially managed by the state, and social welfare institutions are set in place. Finally, in the current neoliberal stage, which unfolded rapidly since the recent internationalization of the market economy and the conservative revolutions in Britain and the U.S. during the 1980s, marketization processes increasingly are universalized and the long-sought goal of the maximal role of the market and minimal role of the state is attained.
On Fotopoulos' reading, because of the growing globalization of the market economy and the triumph of commodity logic, capitalism has already passed through its "statist" phase of organization, where nation states intervened in the market in order to control its crisis tendencies and fashioned a social welfare state designed to secure full employment and allocate resources to those most in need. Forebodingly, Fotopoulos argues that the neoliberal stage is not merely a temporary phenomenon, but  rather represents "the political consequence of structural changes in the market economy system that could lead to the completion of the marketization process ― a historical process that was merely interrupted by the statist phase."[8] Marketization dynamics have knitted capitalist nations into a global system dominated by institutions such as NAFTA, the European Union (EU), the Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN), the Southern Cone Common Market in Latin America (MERCOSUS), and the WTO. Nations still have interests and powers independent from transnational forces, but Fotopoulos insists that in a global competition among various economic blocs, this role is diminishing, while citizenship and democracy themselves slide into decline.
The implications of the neoliberal stage of capitalist marketization are enormous, as capitalism co-opts and defeats its enemies and thereby perfects itself through the autonomization of the economy from society. According to Fotopoulos, "A neoliberal consensus has swept over the advanced capitalist world and has replaced the social-democratic consensus of the early post-war period."[9] Not only have "existing socialist societies" been negated in the global triumph of capitalism (and Fotopoulos provides a lengthy and acute analysis of how socialist statism mirrored its capitalist “other” and dissolved through its own contradictions), so too have  social democratic movements.
In support of this thesis, Fotopoulos observes that national governments such as Sweden increasingly have abandoned government regulation of the economy and attempts to provide effective social services, while social democratic parties themselves ignore or parody the social dimensions of their tradition in favor of neoliberal policies. If statism is now obsolete, the social democratic project becomes unrealizable and there cannot even be moderate reforms able to withstand the assault of privatization and demand to conform to global market imperatives. Thus, Fotopolous insists, "no national government today may follow economic policies that are disapproved by the capital markets, which have the power to create an intolerable economic pressure on the respective country's borrowing ability, currency value and investment flows."[10] Every “socialist” leader who has tried to maintain an effective social welfare system or any kind of protectionist policies ― whether Francois Mitterrand in France or George Papandreou in Greece ― has been forced to surrender to transnational capitalist policies or be completely bulldozed by the juggernaut of marketization.[11]

Thus, Fotopoulos diagnoses troubled conditions where both bureaucratic socialist countries and social democracies have failed to overturn capitalism, let alone to reform it in any enduring and substantive way. Fotopoulos shows how Marx himself fetishized growth, industrialism, and science and technology (which Marx argued would almost automatically bring human liberation when fully developed), and how Marxists and dependency theorists alike fail to challenge the socially and ecologically destructive logic of a growth-oriented economy. In Towards an Inclusive Democracy, the consequences of such a system become staggeringly clear when Fotopoulos takes the reader on a tour of Southern nations caught in the ravaging grip of debt, export, structural adjustment programs, poverty, hunger, disease, and environmental degradation, all of which he argues are inevitable consequences and by-products of neoliberal policies.[12]
Fotopoulos relates a crucial grand narrative of the life and death of social democracy and Leftist traditions, a story that is quite different from the metanarrative rightly criticized by Jean-Francois Lyotard and other postmodernists.[13] For whereas a grand narrative is an empirically-grounded story of social change, a metanarrative is a metaphysical tale of unfolding social improvement and perfection. With postmodernists, Fotopoulos criticizes metanarratives as ideological mystifications that promote the modern ideology of Progress as attained through the development of science, technology, free markets, and the cult of expertise. Fotopoulos is relentless in his criticism of the unregulated (by society at large rather than only by elites) advance of these forces and the catastrophic social and environmental impact of economic growth and profit imperatives. He shows that the Western tradition of “heteronomy (i.e. the tradition of non-questioning of existing laws, traditions and beliefs that in a hierarchical society guarantee the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of elites), has never in fact led to a tradition of autonomy, and that the forms of freedom and democracy created remained partial, distorted, and wholly inadequate to the social forms human beings require for an autonomous existence with one another and a viable existence with the natural world.
Unlike most postmodernists, however, Fotopoulos describes the current global situation as one of advanced capitalism, as a new form of modernity, rather than as a vague and rootless “postmodernity.” Whereas postmodernists emphasize breaks and discontinuties, Fotopoulos highlights the continuity of the last few centuries of capitalist social development in terms of privatization and market domination.[14] And whereas postmodernists typically espouse a relativism that disables normative and political criticism, Fotopoulos insists that ethical and political values can be grounded in non-arbitrary conditions. As he points out, “the type of general relativism, which is adopted by post-modernism, simply expresses the latter's abandonment of any critique of the institutionalised social reality and a general retreat to conformism.”[15] Moreover, as he stresses in another passage, “once we have made a choice among the main traditions, in other words, once we have  defined the content of the liberatory project in terms of the autonomy tradition, certain important implications follow at the ethical level, as well as at the interpretational level”[16]—a position  that rules out any kind of subjectivist arbitrariness.[17] Fotopoulos rejects the individualism and fragmented identity politics of multiculturalists and postmodernists in favor of emphasizing the need for social-institutional change and a global anti-capitalist politics of alliance. Finally, Fotopoulos finds that some explicit attempts at postmodern politics, such as the “radical democracy” of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, are simply fetid reformist wine repackaged in shiny new theoretical bottles.[18] Despite its one-time flair and flourish, postmodernism, for Fotopoulos, is just another dead-end road unable to carry humanity toward democracy and autonomy over and against domination and heteronomy.
The Road to Democracy
Either the vision of a radical democracy must die, and we acquiesce to something like Fukuyama's notion of the "end of history" (i.e., the triumph of capitalism at the alleged endgame of human moral and political evolution), or we radically reconstruct the democratic project.[19] Fotopoulos of course takes the latter path, unwavering in his insistence that reform and social democratic projects are obsolete and doomed to failure. Given the power of neoliberal, neoconservative, reformist, and pseudo-subversive ideologies, much debris has to be cleared out of the way, and thus Fotopoulos critically engages Social Democracy, communitarianism, deep ecology, postmodernism, Greens, and various alter-globalization approaches.
In his examination, Fotopoulos finds various competing political perspectives to be both "ahistorical and utopian." They are ahistorical in that they fail to recognize the magnitude of the neoliberal restructuration of capital (and typically replicate its individualist and market-based ideologies). And they are utopian because they ignore the grow-or-die logic of the market economy, the universalization of this process, and the irreversibility of the post-statist phase of capitalist reconstruction which nullifies any attempt to return to social democracy policies for state protection of labor, various social groups, and the environment. The irony, Fotopoulos observes, is that Social Democracy and reform approaches in general are the real “utopian” project, because these perspectives believe that meaningful changes can emerge within neoliberal institutions that are antithetical to anything but crass market objectives and brute power politics. Inclusive Democracy, however, frankly recognizes the need for the complete transformation of the global capitalist system, as well as to offer concrete alternatives and proposals for rebuilding society along the lies of autonomy and ecology.
Fotopoulos draws inspiration from the classical democratic tradition which was born in classical Athens and libertarian socialism, along with their theorization by, among others, Castoriadis’ autonomy project, and Bookchin’s social ecology/communalist project. Also engaging various modern social movements (radical Green, libertarian, feminist), Fotopoulos seeks to develop a new liberatory synthesis. On the hypothesis (argued throughout the first part of Towards an Inclusive Democracy) that inequality and hierarchy are the sources of crises in culture, politics, economics, and ecology, Fotopoulos seeks the abolition of the unequal distribution of political and economic power, as well as the elimination of all hierarchical relations in society.
Fotopoulos shows that the new democracy is necessary, given the multidimensional nature of the crisis which stems from the concentration of economic power that inevitably results from a market economy and its attendant "representative democracy." He also suggests some key institutional preconditions that can be constructed to abolish concentrated systems of power. Only in, decentralized, self-governing, interconnected communities can individuals realize the necessary and sufficient conditions of an inclusive democracy (conditions which Fotopoulos notes never have been realized historically), since only on a local scale can people participate meaningfully in society as citizens and attain "demotic" (or, community) ownership of productive resources and govern their allocation. Post-capitalist society, sprung from the political and cultural organization for a new economy and polity, begins with the transformation of city governments into inclusive democracies and their linkage into confederations.
Since political democracy requires economic democracy (as money creates hierarchies and controls votes), the contemporary liberation project must be rooted in a new theory of economics. Key to Fotopoulos' political position is the assertion that "the objective of a new liberatory project should not merely be the abolition of capitalist property relations but that of the market economy itself."[20] Whereas emphasis on confederalism is common among social anarchists and left libertarians, a distinguishing feature of Fotopoulos' analysis is his concrete emphasis on producing and exchanging goods in a non-market economy and democratically allocating scare resources in a way that reconciles the social and individual dimensions of human life. This is what makes economic democracy necessary in the Inclusive Democracy project, in contrast to anarchists and social ecologists who, starting from an objective definition of human needs, believe in the communist myth of a “post-scarcity” society (rightly criticised by Hannah Arendt) in which no problem of democratic allocation of resources arises. Fotopoulos’ approach therefore radically differs from Bookchin's notion of a "post-scarcity" anarchism and the economics of social ecology,[21] which he criticizes for lacking specifics on alternative economics and systems of resource allocation (which Bookchin phrases in the vague terms of a new "moral economy").[22]
Fotopoulos rejects attempts to reconcile capitalism and socialism by creating a "mixed economy" or market institutions democratically governed. For Fotopoulos, a "socialist market" is an oxymoron, since markets are growth mechanisms and commodity logic breeds uncontrollable expansion. Seeking to meet fundamental aims in satisfying human needs (both essential and non-essential) and to synthesize collective and individual decision making, Fotopoulos roots his vision of a decommodified economy in a voucher system.[23] There would be a social allocation of work, along with rotating functions, where necessary.[24] By placing heavy emphasis on freedom of choice and localized institutions, this theory differs significantly from socialist views of "economic democracy" and “participatory economics”[25] that fail to minimize the dangers of a new bureaucratic system of planning emerging.
No theory will be convincing if it does not offer realistic alternatives to the present set of arrangements that are so entrenched as to seem unshakeable or subject only to minor improvements. Thus, as Fotopoulos emphasizes: "all the proposed strategies for political and economic change and the transitional projects involved are useless unless they are part of a comprehensive program for social transformation that explicitly aims at replacing the market economy and statist democracy by an inclusive democracy."[26] Fotopoulos offers positive, constructive, and fairly detailed visions of how the future can come about and what it might look like, while trying to avoid the problem of dogmatism  dictating  to the future what its society should be.
Thus, Inclusive Democracy seeks to construct a new form of decentralized democracy based on confederations of local inclusive democracies. This approach aims to reintegrate society with economy, polity, and nature by striving to achieve the equal distribution of power at all levels. Such a society can exist only in contradiction with capitalist institutions, rather than in compromise or accommodation to it. Inclusive Democracy seeks a break and rupture with capitalism, technocracy, bureaucratic domination, and, indeed, the entire classist, statist, and heteronomy tradition of the Western world. The primary values of Inclusive Democracy are autonomy (in the original sense of the word that involves “self rule”) and democracy (the direct rule of citizens over their social life). For Fotopoulos, democracy has only one genuine meaning, and this entails the active involvement of informed citizens in the regulation of their own lives, without mediation of “experts” or elites of any kind.
Equally as important to the vision of a new society is a theory of how to get there, or, a transitional strategy. Fotopoulos opposes the Marxist-Leninist insurrectionist vision of precipitating a sudden and cataclysmic “revolution.” One problem with this approach is that change unfolds too rapidly and new objective conditions are brought about without appropriate new subjective conditions. Moreover, this method invariably depends on a “vanguard” concept that involves elitism and authoritarianism, and thereby is a betrayal of progressive political ideals of equality and democracy. Through the critical education method of paideia and actual experience with building democracy, Inclusive Democracy envisions a manner in which people can create vital democracies uncontaminated with elitism and the cult of expertise. Against the criticism that people are fundamentally lazy, apathetic, and apolitical, Fotopoulos argues that people are capable of building democracies, new social forms they will identify with, value, and thus defend against inevitable reaction and counter-attacks. As for the ever-present threat of violence, Fotopoulos claims that it will be a real threat only when it is too late, already after the democratic “paradigm” would have become hegemonic in the Gramscian sense. These new democratic communities, of course, will be constructed in as many local bases as possible, but they must ultimately be interconnected into federations at the national and international levels. Just as “socialism in one country”, “Inclusive Democracy in one country” is an oxymoron, for capitalism is global and isolated communities are highly vulnerable.
Thus, in place of antiquated and problematic visions of insurrection, convulsive revolution, and storming the barricades (or centers of power that no longer exist in a rhizomatic global capitalist world), Inclusive Democracy emphasizes the need for preparatory transitions. To be sure, the radical vision here is optimistic, but it is grounded in existing historical possibilities and concrete ideas for new social forms. Fotopoulos believes that a revolutionary project is "realistic" to the extent local economic and political bases of Inclusive Democracy can take root, interconnect, nourish new cultures and subjectivities, and win over a majority of the population. Subsequently, "an alternative social paradigm will have become hegemonic and the break in the socialization process ... will have occurred."[27]

Fotopoulos' vision, then, is creating and securing a counter-hegemonic inclusive democratic culture, stage-by-stage, until a new global economic, political, and cultural order is achieved. He offers a resolute, militant, holistic insistence on the need to negate hierarchies and power structures in order to comprehensively rebuild society from below: "Town by town, city by city, region by region will be taken away from the effective control of the market economy and the nation-state, their political and economic structures being replaced by the confederations of democratically run communities."[28]
Fotopoulos offers the kind of radical insights to be truly visionary, to be “utopian” in the best sense of the term which seeks to identify existing potentialities for systemic change. Inclusive Democracy thereby is not the u-topos of a non-society that cannot possibly exist, but rather the eu-topos of a good society existing in potential, to be born through radical struggle in building a new democratic society. The approach of Inclusive Democracy shows that humankind must find a way beyond the Charybdis of an internationalized capitalism and the Scylla of socialist statism, between the false options of individualism and collectivism. Inclusive Democracy maps out a third way, one predicated on building a federation of self-organized political and economic institutions at local levels. With no guarantee of success, and few historical examples of genuine democracies, the Inclusive Democracy project is an experiment in human possibilities.
Whatever choices human beings make, they are not capricious; steering clear of the false dilemma of objectivism and relativism, Fotopoulos’ Toward an Inclusive Democracy brings into play some elaborate philosophical machinery to demonstrate that while human choices cannot be justified or "proven" through appeal to divine mandates, historical "laws," or “objective tendencies,”  neither are they arbitrary or of equal value. Laying claim to freedom as the highest human value, the task becomes to justify it as such, work through its implications, and struggle for the institutional mechanisms best able to realize it. .
The Need for a Renewed Radicalism

Critics may disagree with key particulars and assumptions of Fotopoulos’ theory, but nonetheless concur, in this era of severe social and ecological crisis, that without the kind of revolutionary changes envisioned by Inclusive Democracy, the future will become increasingly bleak. The social and environmental crises haunting global capitalism inevitably will deepen and darken, as evidenced in the disastrous US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the fascist administrations of George Bush and Tony Blair, failed neoliberal projects for spreading “democracy” to the Middle East, struggles over diminishing resources such as oil and water, “terrorism” and increasingly volatile geopolitical conflicts, global climate change, and environmental chaos such as portended by the destructive power of Hurricane Katrina.
More than ever before, the choice for humanity is between libertarian socialism and barbarism, democracy or authoritarianism, sustainability or collapse. In the audacious vision of Inclusive Democracy, the goal must be to create what never existed before, but which is more necessary than ever if there is to be a viable future whatsoever ― a direct, decentralized, confederal democracy, one that aims to reintegrate society with economy, polity and nature by striving to achieve the equal distribution of power at all levels.
[1] A concise version of the book is online at:
[2] See also the entry on Inclusive Democracy in The Routledge Encyclopaedia of International Political Economy, 2001.
[3] "The Inclusive Democracy Project – A Rejoinder", Takis Fotopoulos, Democracy and Nature, (Vol.9 No.3, November 2003), p 436.
[4] Takis Fotopoulos, "The ID project and Social Ecology", The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, (Vol.1 No.3, May 2005)
[5] ibid.
[6] ibid.
[7] ibid.
[8] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p.145.
[9] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p. 39.
[10] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p. 42.
[11] On the collapse and defeat of Social Democracy and Eurocommunism, see Carl Boggs, Social Movements and Political Power (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986). One recent example of the cooptation of Left resistance through neoliberal ideologies and global capitalist structures involves the return to power of former Sandinista leader and President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. An avowed enemy of the US and capitalism in the late 1970s and early 1980s (before the US destabilized the country by funding fascist “contra” forces), Ortega was re-elected President in November 2006, but this time ditching Marxist-Leninist posturing to affirm global markets as key to national prosperity. See “Ortega, Again,” The New York Times, November 11, 2006.
[12] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, pp. 110-139
[13] On this distinction, see Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations (New York: Guilford Press, 1991).
[14] One significant counterexample to this would be David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1991), which roots postmodern analysis and historical periodization in political economy and social theory. In this vein, also see the trilogy of postmodern works by Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations; The Postmodern Turn: Paradigms Shifts in Art, Theory, and Science (Guilford Press, 1997), and The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium (Guilford Press, 2001).
[15] Fotopoulos, Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p.348.
[16] Ibid.
[17]  see  Takis Fotopoulos, "Towards a democratic liberatory ethics", Democracy & Nature, (Vol.8  No.3,  November  2002)
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Toward a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso Press, 2001).
[19] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Harper Perennial, 1993).
[20] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p. 6.
[21] See Janet Biehl, The Politics of Social Ecology (Montreal: Black Rose Press, 1998), Chapter 12.
[22] See Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2004).
[23] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, pp. 257-262.
[24] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, pp. 262-6.
[25] See Takis Fotopoulos, "Participatory Economics (Parecon) and Inclusive Democracy", The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, (Vol.1 No.2, January 2005)
[26] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p. 275.
[27]Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p. 285.
[28] Toward an Inclusive Democracy, p. 285.