Where there is capitalism, there will sooner or later be crisis. And where there is crisis, there will be resistance – and where there is socialism, there will be organized resistance. All the governments of West and East know this, and for this reason, everywhere the net is further closed, everywhere the political domain is restricted and the freedom of speech and of political expression further infringed. More and more the neoliberal era of capitalist rule shows its true face: in the name of liberating the citizen from the oppressive powers of the big state, it everywhere extends these powers and sharpens the knife it holds at the throat of anyone who might threaten to resist. In preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, it has been announced that there will be “UK’s biggest mobilisation of military and security forces since the second world war”, and “during the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadiums and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11-mile, £80m, 5,000-volt electric fence.”(1) So much for the spirit of peace and international sportsmanship the Games were to promote. The nakedness of the athletes has now been substituted with the nakedness of these displays of military power. The British state is imposing these on a city which only recently saw widespread rioting as a result of the exorbitant costs of living, the enormous rise in inequality, and the behavior of the state’s police force. It is for this reason that in Britain, comrade Seymour was quite right to oppose solidarity with the police forces in their campaign for the right to strike – at this particular juncture, such a right can only be used in order to give the police more resources with which to beat the working class into submission. Not coincidentally it is in the borough of Newham, where much of the Olympic activity will take place, that a great scandal has recently erupted over the aggressively racist behavior of the local police. Petty repression can only persist if backed up by displays of power, so as to say: “resistance is futile”.
More examples of this have been the trend towards imprisoning people on the basis of what previously would have been considered political opposition within the law, minor offences, or even mere silliness. A man in Lincolnshire called the police after a policeman had been shot, in order to announce his pleasure with the course of events; he was imprisoned for six weeks. In another case, a man was imprisoned for two months for making a single racist statement towards a footballer (who would not even know about it); in the wake of the riots in London and elsewhere, people have been sentenced to long prison terms for such crimes as stealing a bottle of water, a totally failed attempt at gathering people for a riot, and for wishing British soldiers serving imperialism in Afghanistan to go to hell – hardly a very real threat in a society in which few people believe in such a state of the soul. Similar cases of ‘setting an example’ have occurred elsewhere. In the United States, the Obama administration has systematically prosecuted whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, even when they were actually attempting to reveal deficiencies in the state apparatus or forms of corruption rather than any political shortcomings; and this is a law which was passed during the First World War in order to effect the mass imprisonment and exile of socialists and to make outlaws of draft resisters. Just recently there was the case of Tarek Mehanna, a citizen of fundamental Muslim principles from Boston, MA, who was imprisoned for 17 1/2 years on counts of supporting terrorist organizations.
In his brilliant sentencing speech, which can be found in its entirety here, Mehanna rightly pointed out the hypocrisy of imprisoning a citizen for supporting foreign resistance forces by categorizing them as ‘terrorists’, when it is the American government and its allies that are occupying their lands and slaughtering their people. As Mehanna points out, the United States itself was founded on armed resistance against the foreign oppressor, and the principle of revolution is as indelibly associated with American society and its principles as it is in France. To the loyalists and Tories of the 18th century, the American rebels were no doubt terrorists. At the same time, when it is convenient to the American government’s purposes, terrorists abroad can become ‘freedom fighters’, as when the Mujahideen fought the Soviet Union and the Afghan government in Afghanistan; but now the US is itself embroiled in a hopeless war of attrition there, those same fanatics have become the worst international outlaws. How can they expect anyone to take this seriously? The Mehanna case, the Manning case, the case of the man imprisoned in New York for distributing Hezbollah’s soap series on al-Manar TV all show but one thing: they expose the ultima ratio regis behind the ‘liberalism’ and ‘personal freedoms’ of our societies, they expose the willingness to use force at home and abroad that makes the individual liberty of modern society a privilege limited to the few. For his courage towards furthering this cause, Mehanna has done us all a great favor; and the fact we must disassociate ourselves from his Islam-centered political viewpoint does not diminish that in the least.
Many such examples could be provided. Indeed, against Muslims generally the levels of witch-hunting an suspicion have reached unprecedented levels, as more and more the Western states see them as collectively unreliable, sui generis treasonous to the supposed achievements of our ‘liberal, democratic states’, and all that decaying rubbish. But it is a mistake to see this as limited to that context only. More generally, there has been a militarization of the police, a revival of mass imprisonment as a technique for reasserting state control, an ever-expanding state power over the new media and new forms of communication, a willingness to exercise brutality against legal and peaceful demonstrations and to further restrict the ability to hold them, renewed offensives against undocumented workers and ‘undesirables’ such as Roma people, ridiculous humiliations of working class people for petty crimes such as ASBOs, and the widespread practice of hiring out the police force as private guard dogs for capital, from New York to Athens.
These are all related phenomena. They are part of a large front offensive by the ruling classes to maintain their position against rising popular resistance. They fit the neoliberal programme of using state power to perforce bring the populations of the world into the free market utopia of the neoclassical school – a utopia guarded by border fences, secret detention sites, SWAT teams and even the use of ‘nonlethal weaponry’ on any remaining protesters. But this is not all cause for despair. It is precisely a sign of the weakness of the neoliberal state in an era of crisis. It is a sign of the total bankruptcy, quite literally, of the ideology of capitalist triumphalism that would guarantee us that there would be no more crisis, no more unemployment, no more war, only trade and mutual benefit, only liberty, equality, property, and Bentham. It is when the forces shoring up the rule of capital are at their weakest that they resort to the harshest measures – one need but look at Bismarck’s “Anti-Socialism Law”, at the Palmer and Mitchell Raids, at McCarthyism after WWII, at Operation Gladio and De Gaulle calling in the tank divisions. This is besides as true in China and Russia as it is in Britain and Greece.
In this sense, the men and women so wisely and democratically governing our nations are really doing us a favor. In exposing their economic failure, their political hypocrisy, and their total subservience to the interests of capital, especially financial capital, they expose also their total unfitness to govern and their historical obsolescence. This is felt widely in much of the world, as demonstrated by the ever increasing dissension against the meaningless parliamentarism of the social-democrats and the prison-house of “there is no alternative”. What greater indictment of a economic-political system than that the rulers of its ruling state have to keep 60.000 people in solitary confinement in perpetuity? This is no show of historical strength. What greater sign of weakness than that all the politicians of the ruling class ever more sing hymns from the same sheet-book, while the real substance of their politics and manifestos becomes less discernable by the day? That they care not whether they lie or speak the truth, whether they are believed or not believed? The rottenness of the edifice becomes so clear now that its smell is pervading throughout Europe and will soon reach other shores, if it has not already. Not even the Chinese walls will be able to keep out the stench of putrefaction of this corpse. When military law comes to Greece, when protests are banned in Spain, when the elections in the US will provide a ‘mandate’ for further war abroad and prisons at home, when the Russian regime extends its grasp further and the oil kings of the Gulf manifest their priestly hypocrisy further, the workers of all nations will increasingly clearly see the commonality of their interests in ridding themselves of this sorry bunch. Then we shall hold a Cadaver Synod, and dispense with the liberal ‘party of order’.
1) Stephen Graham, “Olympics 2012 security: welcome to lockdown London”. The Guardian (March 12, 2012).