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Nation-state and the ideology of nation in crisis'
Our political vocabulary deploys the term 'nation' in a sense that presupposes certain articulations between this true or supposed reality and other realities the state, the world system of states, the economy and social classes. We inherit these concepts and their articulation in a system of various social theories developed out of the historical experience of 19th century Europe, in the shape of bourgeois nationalist theories or historical Marxism.
The 19th century in Europe remains an epoch central to our modern history. During this century the essential realities that constitute the framework of the contemporary world evolved, through decisive struggles of every kind - wars, revolutions, economic, social, political and cultural upheavals. Among the realities taking shape through three centuries of gentle ripening should certainly be included the nation-state and the worldwide capitalist system, as well as the opposition of modern social classes.
Two theoretical entities have been produced in this framework, in counterpoint to one another. Marxism and the theory of class struggle on the one hand, nationalism and the theory of integration of classes into the bourgeois democratic nation-state on the other. Both take into account numerous aspects of the immediate reality, characterized at one and the same time by social struggles going as far as revolution and by struggles between nation-states going as far as war. The one and the other purport to be effective instruments to inspire strategies of action by the protagonists who are the subjects of history and see themselves as such.
The real effectiveness of political strategies nevertheless depends on a specific conjuncture defined by a correlation - that seems to us now to have been limited in time and space - between the following elements: first, correlation between the state and another social reality, the nation; second, the dominant position of the bourgeois national states thus constituted in the world capitalist system, their 'central' (as opposed to peripheral) character in our conceptual scheme; third, a certain level of worldwide expansion of the capitalist system that makes 'autocentric' economic units, interdependent but enjoying a high degree of autonomy with respect to one another, central partners.
It can be seen why this conjuncture gives the policies inspired by the theories under consideration a real effectiveness. First, there is a possible field of action for 'national' economic policy, that is applied to a given territory, delineated by frontiers and governed by a single state power. The instruments of this policy-centralized national monetary system, customs regulations, network of physical infrastructure of transport and communications, unifying education around a 'national' language, unified system of administration, and so forth have a certain autonomy in relation to the 'constraints' of the worldwide economy. The relations of class - however conflictive - are regulated within and by the national state. There is in this sense an average price for national labour power, determined by history and internal class relations, a national system of prices that reflect the decisive social relations. In this sense too the 'law of value' has a national dimension. Nations and classes - workers, bourgeois, peasants - are the effective subjects of history. It is clearly understood that there is no Wall of China to cut these national systems off from the world system they constitute. Internal social relations depend in part on the positions held by the national states in question in the world hierarchy. All of them are 'central' capitalist economies although unequally competitive. But they can improve this by coherent national policies, if social relations permit. This effectiveness in turn facilitates social compromise and, without in any way 'abolishing class struggle', contains the conflicts within precise boundaries. In all of this complex reality, the conflicts between social classes and conflicts of competing states lead to a certain degree of balance. Even the size of these nations seems to tee 'optimum': 30 million citizens for the Britain. France and Germany of the period is the right size for the industry of the time.
In this conjuncture what is the role of the 'rational' reality we have yet to describe? Ideology a posterior) gives an autonomous dimension to national reality by attributing to it pre-existence to the state, which seems debatable to us. For the European bourgeoisie, from the Renaissance to the century of the Enlightenment, seems more cosmopolitan than narrowly national. Moreover, it divides its loyalties among several legitimacies, religous, or philosophical beliefs, friendships still feudal but also at the service of the absolutist monarchical state when it seemed reasonable. It is still largely mobile, at ease in the embrace of Christianity. As for the peasant population, it is more loyal to soil and province than to the future nation whose culture nor even yet really language it shares. But the state of the absolute monarchy gradually creates the nation, a task to be rounded off by bourgeois democracy. Doubtless this creation does not come from nowhere. But the ethno-linguistic collections of provinces subject to the same ruler are not 'naturally' destined to become the modern nations of Europe; it is no more than a possibility. The nation is really a product of capitalism, as moreover Marxism along with conventional sociology acknowledges for the reason that in Europe feudalism, from which capitalism emerged, took no note of the nation and knew only Christianity and the fief. It was, moreover, a product largely shaped by the sword and the fire - much as by the market - assimilating and compelling, destroying languages and dialects, and nearly always imperfect. A product also sometimes curiously aborted - when capitalist development hangs fire - or distorted by the skew of chance conjunction between local interests, ideological (especially religious) conflicts and international balances. Only in the 19th century did the great melting pot, new industry calling for the diffusion of a national language, and the - slow progression of Western electoral democracy really define nations. But this is in the framework of pre-existing states.
It is true that the strength of the model of the predecessors inspires those who come after. As there already exists an English, and a French nation, the German nation and the Italian nation assign themselves the task of creating themselves by creating their state. The political cunning of the promoters will be in finding social alliances and compromises that mobilize the forces in this direction.
The linguistic dimension acquires exceptional force in the European nation-states, that may even constitute the essence of the national factor as a new social factor. Certainly the material base of this reality is constituted by autocentric capitalist construction, relatively autonomous within the interdependence of the global system. But the national language to some extent constitutes its active superstructure, which operates effectively in its reproduction. Language as a means of unification is a relatively modern phenomenon. In the pre-capitalist world, local languages, of peasant and regional currency, coexist alongside an official language of religion and of the state, whose penetration is incomplete at best. Education and modern democracy turn the national language into an instrument that in the end defines the nation itself, its frontiers, its mass culture. It is attributed a mysterious power of transmitting a 'national culture'. The virtues hitherto invested in the feudal lord, the absolute monarch, the men of God, the true 'proprietors' of populations and human communities, are transferred by democracy and its ideology to the entire nation. The literature of 'national identify' that nourished in the 19th century testifies to this transfer. The slide into jingoism, and indeed racism, is inherent to it.
On a closer examination, however, it would appear that this clear correlation limited in time to the 19th century is even more limited in space. Around these few 'model' nation-states, the world of the capitalist system, structured by different pasts that lose their legitimacy and effectiveness, remains inchoate and its destiny is uncertain and confused.
For what concerns us, namely identification of the historical subjects and eventual establishment of the constituent nations of the world capitalist system, attention must be given to the state. First the state in its relations to continually expanding capitalist reproduction. And at this level, there is no state but the central, that is one that controls external relations and subjects them to the logic of autocentric accumulation. Elsewhere there are only 'countries' administered from outside as colonies and semi-colonies, or ostensibly independent but powerless not only to influence the exterior according to their own needs but even to avoid the tides and influence from the exterior. But attention must in fairness be given to the 'doubtful cases', those that until the present have not veered to one side or the other, the 'semi-peripheries'. Here the destiny of the state will determine the rest.
The European semi-peripheries - the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires - were to veer in the direction of central evolution, but not without difficulty. The start to the constitution of a unified capitalist market, albeit initially under the influence of external penetration, represented a challenge to the old dynastic state. The challenge in the early stages would take the form of a renovation-modernization that was far from hesitant and made giant strides: education, constitutional reform (the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy and petty parliamentarianism), social reform (abolition of serfdom in Russia) among others. But here, the nationalist ideology, largely imported along with the rest, was to prove as much a handicap as a driving force. It was to end in the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, putting the small inheritor states at risk of being peripheralized until their later incorporation into the Soviet empire. And if the Russian empire survives - with and even thanks to the Bolshevik revolution - even at the cost of the loss of Poland and Finland, doubtless it is in great measure because the Russian nation is predominant there.
It is one those phenomema of discrepancy that constitute the hypothesis of this reflection. For it cannot be said that each of the bourgeoisies, assuming their existence Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Slovene, Croat, German needed 'its' state end 'ifs' market. It cannot be said that they would have been unable to constitute segments of a single bourgeoisie on the basis of a single integrated market. It cannot be said that the mass of the peasant population would have preferred to be exploited by their own 'rational' bourgeoisie. The polarization of the conflict around language is typical, largely by projection of the ideology attached to the new role of language in the developed European West. The complex interplay of real and potential social conflicts led the political forces - social democratic parties of the Second International, peasant parties, parties of the bourgeois revival - to theorize, justify propose endless strategies that finally all fell away before the myth of the linguistically unified nation-state, as a reproduction of the 'mode!'.
The result is in any case rather mediocre. The inheritor states are the confirmation of incapable local bourgeois hegemonies that quickly fell into the lap of Berlin or Paris. The potential for capitalist development was thrown away and economic stagnation became a marked characteristic. With the absence of bourgeois democracy compensated for by talk of jingoistic mobilization against a neighbour, the affair was settled - oddly by the regimes put into place by the Red Army in the aftermath of the defeat of fascism - by the generalized expulsion of minorities! Since then the system inspired and dictated by the Soviet model and, with the exception of Yugoslavia, integrated into the Soviet empire, has inaugurated a new history. Not everything in this new history is negative and it cannot be said that the fate of the peoples of the region would have been better in any other way and that they would then have escaped their peripheralization. But, if it is possible to imagine, the unrealized potentialities, the maintenance and renewal of the ancient empire - and nowadays a kind of Hungary-Yugoslavia (which are not doing so badly in the present-day world) at the scale of the entire region - would perhaps have allowed more room for manoeuvre for the plans for independence and democracy.
Russia would have been inaugurated with more talent, and the invention of Bolshevism is no smell thing in the history of humankind. That it has little to do with socialism, that it has given Russification a power that no Western colonization has ever had (precisely through what, despite everything, is the progressive dimension of the Soviet renewal) is not the issue.
Further to the south and east is the world that was not to escape peripheralization. First the centres carve out colonial empires there. Some regions have this status from the mercantilist period - the British and Dutch Indies, the Philippines. Other fall to the imperialist scramble for Africa at the end of the 1 9th century. The states that retain formal independence - China, the Ottoman Empire, Persia - are in reality 'semi-colonies'. At the level of the economic base, there is no mystery: the peripheralization is the systematic work of colonial administrations or the inevitable result of the drift by states whose sovereigns expect no more than to survive from week to week. But at the level of the superstructure, things are not so one-dimensionally uniform. Here the past is a weightier encumbrance. And it is in this regard that the most outlandish simplifications and most Eurocentric projections have flourished. As the nation in Europe is the historical product of capitalism and unknown in feudal times, in the name of Eurocentrism the possibility is denied of an analogous social factor elsewhere, for periods that can only be imagined as 'feudal' as well. Elsewhere, we have pronounced on this very point and attempted to describe the tribute-paying mode in its non-feudal Asian and African forms. A phenomenon, whose similarity with the previous national phenomenon cannot escape notice, often appears when a complete and advanced form of this tribute-paying mode is characteristic of the society. Linguistic phenomena similar to those that Europe would not develop until the capitalist epoch would also testify to this similarity, quite clearly in China and Egypt, in part at least in India and at certain epochs of Arab history.
Attention must be paid to the regions and states whose fate is not determined at the moment of European irruption into their area. Was China also on the point of inventing capitalism? Would it have strengthened the Chinese nation too, but there on the basis of a substratum already present? There are indications of this. Is it this maturity that has prevented worse: disintegration? Or is it the Confucian bonding and the sheer size of the continent that made the conqueror hesitate? But India did not dismay either Dupleix or the East India Company. It still seems that the nation-state, despite its decline, and with hindsight here, was the historical subject. It provided the framework - national is the only way to describe it - in which the historical subjects that constitute classes face one another under the successive hegemonies of the heavenly aristocracy and bureaucracy, then the bourgeoisie, and in the end under a peasant revolution led by the communist party, to regulate the conditions of internal transformation and external relations.
India, too, was pregnant with a capitalist development that Marx doubtless did not expect and whose reality has been shown by Ramkrishna Mukherjee.2 The disappearance of the Indian state, perhaps merely the fruit of a passing conjuncture, to the benefit of colonialism, has nevertheless had longstanding, irreversible effects in the fields of national and statist construction. Indian unity is not, it must quickly be added, a product of British colonization, and its maintenance after independence is not the expression of the will of the political liberation movement without objective foundations. Hinduism certainly supplies a real common denominator; is not the proof of this that unitary efforts were to fail outside its area of dominance, in the Islamized regions? But this common denominator also operates for a family of a dozen linguistically related great nations, which includes most of the peoples of the sub-continent. Here, unification of the capitalist market is not called in question by the will of the bourgeoisies of these various nations to break up the new state to their benefit, as was the case in central and eastern Europe. Is it because the ideology of the nation-state had not penetrated into this part of the world less clouded by the West-European model than Austro-Hungary and the Balkans were?
The Ottoman state and the Egyptian state also provide food for thought. The ripening of capitalist relations is evident in the Balkans and in Rumelia, in Egypt and Syria. The state that superimposed itself over all the component populations - Arab and Turkish Muslims, Greek Christians, slaves and Armenians - was not 'naturally' en obstacle to this ripening. Its incapacity to withstand the forays of foreign capital would in the end rob it of its legitimacy. But there too, as in central Europe, the proof would be provided by the history that the inheritor states would offer scarcely more effective resistance. It was therefore possible to envisage another kind of doubtless more effective response, modernization within an Ottoman framework that had become lay and pluri-national. This is not a pipe dream. History, written after the event by the Balkans peoples, the Arabs and the Turks, suggests that the desire for 'national independence' of the populations (or bourgeoisies?) was irrepressible. That is not obvious. In the Balkans perhaps, decadent Muslim fanaticism, combined with active British, Austrian and Russian intervention strengthened the transfer of the ideology of the small nation-state to the Greek, Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Romanian peoples. The real resonance of this ideology remains a matter of debate, as is shown by the lack of interest shown in it by the 'Greek bourgeoisie of the exterior'.3
In the Arab part of the empire, the Ottomans did not recruit solely from Muslim reaction. Intellectual bearers of the Arab national renaissance in Syria and Egypt defended Ottoman unity, not only as a tactical shield against the Europeans, but also, sometimes because, with astounding perspicacity, they believed the break-up would still further weaken the possibilities of an effective renewal. Is it known that the Arab and Muslim intellectuals defended the thesis of a laicist state (defended the Christians in the Balkans and Armenia against Turkish oppression) and a pluri-national state, and kept their distance from the Khalifate? Here, as in Inida, the European model of the nation-state had only limited appeal. Unhappily this appeal would be great in the decisive sector of the young Turks and the secret organization for 'Unify and Progress' which, taking the initiative for the creation of a then artificial 'Turkish' perspective, would begin what was to be completed by the defeat of 1918 and the Kemalist revolution. In an even more tragic version of central Europe, this option would end in making Turkey the last 'lumper-proletarian' wagon in a Europe that would repulse it. In a necessary echo, and in the face of the deplorable behaviour of the Arabs of the Mashreq in the 1914-18 War, the Egyptian liberal bourgeoisie rallied round this thesis that was predominant in the inter-war period. This option, later abandoned for a healthy return to Arab Egypt, finds objective foundation in the 'two stage' character of the Arab nation, as I have tried to show in The Arab Nation: Nationalism and Class Struggles.
In the Americas likewise, on a very different historical substratum however, the state operates as an active subject, forging the nation or attempting to do so, with greater or lesser success. In the North its base is provided by the construction of an autocentric economy established from New England to be extended throughout the United States after the settlement of the question of the South. But it did not manage to establish itself in Latin America, despite the early accession to independence. The national superstructure constituted in the US has such peculiar characteristics that one hesitates to speak of nation in the singular, despite the 'purity' and unparalleled success of the capitalist development. Did the two original cultures, petty commodity of New England and slave colonial of the South, fuse? Do they continue side by side? Are they diluted in a new culture that is gradually shaped by massive immigration? Is the racially-based pyramid defining North American society to the present day more or less significant than linguistic uniformity? The insurmounted peripheralization of the economic base in Latin America substantially reduces the extent to which the state has formal existence. All the more since it is a case of a Creole state marginalizing the Indian communities. It is hardly possible to speak of a nation-state except in Mexico when, after the revolution of the 20th century, hispanification of the Indian communities reached a decisive stage. Brazil, however, constitutes one of those oddities of history, where the state - a Portuguese rather than specifically Brazilian state moreover - is able to impose itself,, even without an economic base and, perhaps for a long time, even without a nation. In any case, in this field as in in others in Latin America, the European model remains the sole point of reference and with it the unchallenged ideology of the nation-state.
Actual history has therefore led us through this rapid overview to challenge the ideology of the nation, whether in its bourgeois version (the nation is a pre-existing reality, the ideal state - the nation-state - is founded on it and reveals its potential) or its vulgar Marxist version (capitalism creates nations and generalizes the nation-state form to the entire world). Actual history suggests rather that the state is the active subject that sometimes creates the nation, sometimes 'regenerates' it, but often fails to do either. As actual history further suggests, the significance of the nation-state ideology is that it does not always manifest itself as a progressive active agent in capitalist development but as a deviant influencing its development in a negative direction or slowing down its rate. It is a shining success only in Western Europe, Russia, China, Japan and the US; and the nation-state/autocentric economy correlation is limited in time and space. In those cases the nation became an active historical subject, a framework for the conflicts and compromises between the subjects who, in the final analysis, constitute capitalism's social classes or emerge from it. Elsewhere, whether the economic base remains peripheral or becomes so, whether the state fragments or disappears, whether the potential national constructions emerge or fail to do so, groups and social classes, communities of various kinds and the state confront each other in a play of conflicts that does not permit control of the destiny of the people in question. The true historical subject here is the 'liberation movement' rather than the classes or nation. This liberation movement, described as 'national - such is the potency of the nation-state ideology brings together classes, groups and communities, and assigns them their objectives: independence, 'development' and national construction. It has achieved the first, but generally failed in the essence of the others, certainly by virtue of the class character of its hegemonic component, but also because the nation-state ideology is not as effective as it is believed to be.
The nation-state ideology is, however, so powerful that when, in the aftermath of the Second World War, all the countries of the world were bidding for independence, they constituted a system of would-be nation-states. But at the very moment when the nation-state was being proclaimed everywhere, it was entering a crisis everywhere, even at its centres of origin, a crisis from which there seems no escape.
In the 1945-70 period the worldwide expansion of the capitalist system reached a stage that gave it qualitatively new characteristics. Until the end of the 19th century, the worldwide expansion had merely integrated a certain number of basic products into a market that was still an international rather than a world market. This first step allowed the operation of the laws of value of a national character, within the framework of the constraints operating through international competition, through an embryonic world capitalist law of value. At this stage, the social classes were still essentially national classes, defined by social relations confined to the limits of the state. There was, therefore, a conjunction between the struggles of these classes and the play of politics, which was regulated precisely within the framework of these states. From the end of the 19th century to the Second World War, the internationalization of monopoly capital began in parallel with the international market for basic products. But this stage is marked by the absence of world hegemony, and the monopolies, constituted on the basis of competitor central states, operated in a privileged position in the peripheral regions carved out between the colonial empires and the spheres of influence of these states. The absence of a state or its weakness in these peripheral regions had the effect that social relations confined within the frontiers of central national states could still govern the essential dynamism of capitalist expansion. The principal subjects of history remained the national social classes, even if the working classes among them would henceforth clearly align their strategies within a reformist, or imperialist, perspective. After the Second World War, began the stage of the worldwide expansion of the processes of production themselves through the break-up of systems of production into segments that the so-called 'transnational' form of enterprise would spread through the globe under its control. United States hegemony, even if it is now facing challenge, provided an adequate framework for this transnationalization.
Undoubtedly the global value and employment produced in this way was a modest proportion of the whole, but that is not the issue. It is a fact that the interests invested in these areas of economic activity are those that dominate the system, and determine its evolution by their concentration in the areas of the most advanced technological progress, and are in short the typical new forms of contemporary capitalism. Is it not the case that nearly half of world trade is now made up of internal transfers to the transnationals? And the relative mass of international capital flows of direct interest to these sectors of activity is undoubtedly at least as significant within the world capital market. For the first time, too, we see social classes taking on a world dimension; white-collar workers are employed by IBM in the US, Germany, Senegal. Morocco. Brazil and Indonesia: blue-collar workers make parts for or assemble such and such make of motor-car in a score of countries, and so on. A single world labour force has been constituted; the world dimension of the law of value wins over the local dimensions. This reality finds its obvious reflection in economistic discourse: the constraint of competitiveness on a world scale is an arresting theme of the discourse of governors of the right or the left: it is presented as an inescapable and unavoidable fact, and to ignore it is to turn one's back on 'progress', etc. But by this token, the state - national or not forfeits its effectiveness as the locus for drawing up the strategies to control capitalist expansion or modulate it, As there is no planetary state, and while US hegemony that has partly fulfilled this role is itself in crisis, while the world institutions (IMF,, and so forth) are embryonic, while the political games (elections, for example) are still confined to the state systems, the correlation between class conflicts and compromises on one side and politics on the other has vanished.
But this general crisis does not have the same impact on the various components of the world system,
a) The developed capitalist centres - the United States, Europe and Japan - do not have the essence of their advantages threatened by this evolution. The US enjoys the relative advantage of political and national homogeneity on the scale of a continent; Japan the advantage of national unity, but on the scale of a more average-sized country, and furthermore one poor in natural resources and confronted with neighbours which could threaten its security. Europe is handicapped by its historical legacy. It had been the greatest beneficiary of transnationalization in the first phase - in the 1950s and 1960s when a decisive role was played in capitalist expansion of its fringes (Italy, Spain) and modernization of its centres (Germany especially, and France). The European construction is ambivalent. It was presented by its promoters as the means of establishing a force capable of autonomy in regard to the United States and Japan, but it has also been the framework for transatlanticism.
The effects of worldwide expansion on the developed centres must be considered in the light of the crisis of state and politics it has created. The state is no longer the effective instrument it was, even in the US and Japan, and a fortiori in a divided Europe. The renewal of ultra-liberal, anti-state ideologies is a response of surrender to this decline. But at a stroke, the scope of politics is annulled. The seeds of this erasure of the sense of political choice are not new. The dominant imperialist position had long since created conditions for the aims of the social compromise. But it was a national compromise, that is, its terms depended on internal social relations (capital working-class middle strata). Voting for left or right, in these circumstances, implementing a reformist and Keynesian policy, or choosing austerity, unemployment and an attack on social privilege, were significantly different alternative choices. They were no longer so once the society accepted the notion of the constraint of 'competition on a world scale'. The political forces that engaged in electoral battle drew together in the consciousness of the narrowing of the gap between them: their tactics tended even to reduce the gap to a minimum. To win the votes of the 'centre' one sought to speak in terms as close as possible to those of the opponent. The role of social classes as historical subjects was obscured.
The ineffectiveness of politics does, however, create an uneasy feeling. The history of the United States, again in advance of that of Europe, has shown how this vacuum may be filled by a combination of permanent elements (do not racism and religious and social side-tracks serve a useful purpose in this stability?) and conjunctural coalitions of interests (professional, local, and so on, working through lobbies). Are there not indications of similar phenomena appearing in Europe?
Worldwide expansion has also entailed, for the first time, the beginnings of a pluri-national working class within the very centres of developed capitalism. Migration is of course not a new phenomenon. But the great migrations that populated America came from capitalist centres in formation. In the countries of reception, assimilation was the rule - except of course for the slaves brought by force. France, likewise a country of immigration, readily assimilated Poles, Spaniards and Italians. The new migrations come from the periphery. They have already changed the composition of the working class in the centres and represent very large minorities in the United States (Latin Americans) and in Europe (Africans, Asians and West Indians).
The optimists nevertheless stress the appearance of 'new movements' bringing new social forces into play, perhaps even new historical subjects capable of bringing to life the prospect of a new - socialist - society on the basis of objective contemporary reality. It is far from our intention to underestimate these new trends. Beyond the conjunctures aroused by the emergence of issues evaded by the traditional organizations or by the defection from this same kind of organization (parties, trade unions), some movements indicate the emergence of a far-reaching maturity: the feminist movement, the ecological and local democracy movements, the ideological currents concerned with the reorganization of labour and the critique of commodity alienation, among others. All these movements are largely trans-class, with a strong component in the new middle classes.
Is this a case of the emergence of new historical subjects? What social changes do they offer? Do these changes come within the potential evolution of capitalism and notably the maintenance of the centres/peripheries imbalance? Can they, and under what circumstances, initiate internal socialist development and North-South relations conducive to progressive transformation of the world system? What articulation with the new functions of the state does this potential demand?
The most advanced proposals and analyses in these areas call for a political restructuring of these nascent forces around the following four axes: first, a model of 'alternative development' based on expanding the scope for non-commodity and self-management activities; second, rejection of blind surrender to the demands of international competitiveness, in short, delinking to restore the lost autonomy to the national state: third, revision, albeit by regions, of North-South relations intended to strengthen the national autonomy of the partners and widen the scope for the popular movement, the foundation of a new internationalism; and fourth, a pacifist approach to East-West relations, especially to broaden the interaction of the two Europes and provide scope to the East for democratization and progress.
All that has our entire and unhesitating support. The programme defines for the North what we mean by delinking.
But it must be noted that there is no sign of this structuring in the foreseeable future. The large organizations are deaf and the accepted mode of political regulation impenetrable. The tendency is therefore for these forces to be marginalized or to be incorporated into the system. The model of 'cantonization' of social and political life permits this absorption to the benefit of capital, and it is the latter that remains the sole dominant force trampling on regional autonomies, and absurd votes on constantly recurring minor issues, and even the progressive evolution of customs, and so forth.
Of course, the future is unpredictable, as all these prospective arguments suppose that the stability of the system is not challenged either by a worsening of East-West confrontation that might follow Europe's closer adherence to the Atlantic alliance, or by a global financial and economic slump. A crash, panic, protective chain reaction, unpredictable responses to the political plan in case of too rapid a rise in unemployment, are unknowns. But let us say that, if the relations continue in their current state of tension without a slump, an overall aggressive strategy of the North against the South, that has already begun, would be quite compatible with the apparent 'stability' of the system. This evolution would, naturally, dash the hopes placed on the new movements of the North. The future would then depend entirely on the kind of answer made by the societies of the South,
b) Capitalist expansion has directly inverse effects in the centres and in the peripheries of the system: it integrates the societies in the former, founds or eventually reinforces the nation there, but in the latter it disintegrates the society, fragments it, alienates it, and eventually destroys the nation or destroys its potential. This imbalance as to the economic basis of the system seems to us quite essential. It reflects the qualitatively different position of the local bourgeoisies in the local and world system, which is not only a matter of quantitative degree. It is a manifestation of the unequal character of capitalist development and at the origin of objective need to go beyond capitalism in the peripheries.
The question of the state and its relation to the nation and to its social components comes to the forefront of a concrete analysis of the forms of peripheralization. Generally speaking, we are brought back to the proposition supported above, that the formation of nations is limited in time and space and is in no way a 'general' product of capitalism. How many of the Third World states of today bear even a vague resemblance to nation-states? With the exception of pluri-national India, peripheral capitalism in expansion does not operate as a force dictating a bringing together, or fusion, of nearby quasi-nations, neither in Spanish-speaking America nor in the Arab world. Rather the reverse, as one sees in the latter instance, the closer world integration that oil revenues occasioned pushed back pan-Arab prospects. In Africa, the crude form of neo-colonialism has even broken up the former broader colonial groupings. And this offers no advantage of more homogeneous small units: the small African states are as heterogeneous as the big ones. The incapability of opting for unifying national languages and the concomitant and anomalous retention of linguistic duality (the foreign language - English, French or Portuguese - being designated as 'rational', even when it is spoken by only a tiny minority) makes it impossible to speak of nations here.
Moreover, the new stage of worldwide expansion causes the disappearance of the last traces of social classes recognizable by their position as defined in the local social formation. The ruling classes are no more than subordinate and powerless transmission belts for worldwide capital. But the popular classes themselves lose their identity (working class, small peasantry, and so on) to blend into an ill-defined mixture. The very kind of extraverted development underway calls for this 'molecular' form in the new social structure. Can these classes and social groups, fragmented and fragmentary, make the transition from the status of class in itself to a class for itself? This seems to us very unlikely in the absence of a political struggle where the state may be at stake. The mature formation of classes occurs in this framework, when there is a correlation of state, nation, social struggles and political struggles. The non-correlation between state, nation (which is often non-existent), social classes (dispersed and fragmented in the world) cancels out the effectiveness of politics. In our opinion this loss of effectiveness explains the rise of populisms and ideological irrationalities.
These negative factors together explain the success of the recompradorization underway at the level of the Third World as a whole.
This recompradorization is nevertheless bound to clash with the rise of popular movements. It is not surprising that the populist form is confused, and founded on ambivalent ideologies. It is evidence of the broad character of an alliance of classes themselves unsure of their determination, denied their autonomy and consciousness of class for itself. But this is not to say that it is less effective as a force for disintegration of the world order, or that it could not under certain circumstances evolve into positive revolutionary constructions.
It is not our intention here to make 'forecasts' of either phenomenon or to succumb to the often futile exercise of 'scenarios'. We suggest that positive constructions entail the combination of three conditions. First, delinking as we have defined it, that is strict subjection of external relations in all fields to the logic of internal choices without regard to the criteria of world capitalist rationality. Second, political capacity to introduce profound social reforms in an egalitarian direction. The latter is also a precondition for delinking, since the hegemonic classes in situ have no interest in it and a possible consequence of it, since it evidently implies transfers of political hegemony. Delinking has little chance of coming about without reform, and if it occurs conjuncturally it will end up at an impasse. Third, capacity for technological absorption and ingenuity, without which the autonomy of decision that has been won cannot be put into effect. Clearly such a capacity cannot be developed through a few educational tricks; it implies an ideological opening up.
Ideological and political preparation of a response to the offensive of the North against the peoples of the South requires three axes of action.
First, strengthening the unity of the Third World, and its national and regional components. The greatness of Kwame Nkrumah and his call for pan-Africanism, which in his day made some laugh and condemned him to the ferocious hatred of others, can now more than ever before be recognized as a clear-sighted awareness of the frailty of a fragmented Africa.
Second, progress for democracy and respect for collective rights, whether of (for example, ethnic, religious) 'minorities', or of the popular classes (for example, political and trade union rights). The objective need to provide the Third World with great economic, political and military scope, as the sole means of intervening effectively in the contemporary world and winning respect as a genuine partner, entails the renunciation of the narrow ideology of nation as it has been inherited from 19th century Europe. The idea of unification by force from local Prussias and Piedmonts, ignoring regional differences and imposing, even on minorities, linguistic and administrative homogenization, does not correspond to the realities of contemporary Africa and the Third World. The rights of peoples and nations to self-determination, including their right to secession, must be tempered by outlooks sympathetic to the constitution in appropriate forms of great 'multinational' states, democratic and mindful of differences. This is the only way to check-mate the imperialist plans that always aim to divide. In Africa and the Middle East in particular, South Africa and Israel openly plan to 'bantustanize' or 'Lebanonize' to an infinite degree, counting on 'tribes' and 'religious communities' and refusing to see what, beyond their differences, unites the African peoples and the Arab peoples.
Third, strategic consciousness that the peoples of the periphery must be self-reliant. Neither a possible Soviet alliance, still less illusions about Europe, could mitigate shortcomings in the fields of delinking, internal reform and mutual support. With some justification at the tactical level, these alliances and compromises will be of no strategic value until, through the joint efforts of the peoples, the overall world system has been refashioned.
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