The problem with any sort of “political” ideology is that they are largely made up of a “laundry list” of specific issue proposals. This is true whether there is an underlying consistent idea behind them or not.
Let’s first examine the favorite whipping boy of many people, “libertarianism”. The problem, as some of the more clever leftoids have argued, is that the ruling class will look through this laundry list and throw their weight behind the parts of it that strengthen their position, and discard the rest, thus making libertarianism into a less aggressively socially conservative form of conservatism.
Sure, let’s lower taxes for the rich.
Well, let’s remove the regulations that counteract corporate power, but not the other ones (see: Enron).
No friggin’ way, chief.
But what’s not clearly understood is that this is also true for “liberalism” and so-called “social democracy” or “democratic socialism” or what have you. Modern American “liberalism” is simply Mass Corporatism on steroids. It’s pure bureaucratism. You play nice and obey the rules and if you’re a very excellent drone you get to make money, but not too much, unless you become an insider. In some ways, it’s a bit less harsh than the conservative version of Corporatism but it’s also much harder to evade or escape. The conservatives give you more of a chance to do your own thing, but they also leave you utterly fucked if you fail.
There is no political ideology that can escape this co-optive process carried out by the ruling class. This has led to a principle called the Iron Law of Oligarchy which states that every form of political organization ends up becoming an oligarchy. I think this is true of any political structure, but not necessarily every social structure.
Being a renegade, an anarchist, an agorist or a syndicalist is a zebra of a different stripe. These are what I’d call “anti-political” or “apolitical” ideologies. In these schemes, the non-ruling class takes it upon themselves to create their own sub-society that functions outside the political-economic superstructure, rather than trying to influence that superstructure. This of course leads to conflict at the margins, which, until a certain critical mass is reached, requires stealth and evasion from the authoritarian structure.
As the superstructure grows more advanced and integrated, direct conflict becomes less and less effective as a strategy over time. So in a sense, all of the “political” ideologies are the bulwark, the front line forces, of the ruling class oligarchy. The age of the mass strike came to an end after WWI, for the most part, in the US, and in the 60s in Europe. But there are forms of direct action that have subtly replaced this, in which workers and freelancers take back their surplus value from the oligarchy.
The response has been the warfare-outsourcing project, in which the ruling class devastates the peripheral states and then ruthlessly exploits the surviving working class there. This is what the “cold war” and now, the “war on terror”, were designed to accomplish. Orwell predicted this aspect of things in his book 1984 pretty well. Then for the core states, bread and circuses or soma, keep the population from drifting into the grey zones and keep them supporting the oligarchy. Huxley predicted this aspect of things in his book Brave New World pretty well.
The problem for the ruling class is that they can’t really keep it up forever. We’re bleeding them, and they’re eating their own raw materials trying to maintain an inefficient oligarchic economy. This is the reason why “green” ideology has become popular lately. The ruling class hopes to use fear of environmental destruction in order to suppress consumption by the working class, allowing them to “sustain” corporate hegemony. The fear of environmental destruction is a real fear, but it is the state-corporate oligarchy itself which is causing the destruction. They use the conservatives as a red herring to provide a comical, irresponsible “anti-environmentalist” position that will help drive the more reasonable portion of the population into the “pro-environmentalist” camp.
The mask of political liberty and/or justice is beginning to show too many cracks. The ruling class is forced to act more and more openly and directly to keep the game of spinning plates going, as the inefficiencies and crises inherent in large hierarchic systems start to occur more frequently. This drives more people into the grey zone, into various renegade ideologies (including simple “I don’t give a fuck”ism). This creates more crises for the ruling class — lather, rinse and repeat. The question that lies before us is whether they will be able to re-establish themselves after the collapse.
Whether they can pull a Russia and liquidate, and let the collapse act as a “blow off valve” for their structural inefficiency and come back in a slightly less totalitarian, but no less authoritarian form… or perhaps a China, where they gradually balance economic freedom for some with cultural hegemony over all. These two nations are, perhaps, experiments for the ruling class.
We renegades must find each other and strengthen our own non-political societies, despite our differences in opinion, if we hope to provide a better alternative than these experiments.
Translations for this article:
- Portuguese, Contraste entre Estratégias Políticas e Apolíticas.