At a time when ‘left’ intellectuals and politicians declare the death of classes in today’s society, the exploration of the class issue and its relation to democracy is of crucial importance. Particularly so, when the discussion about the feasibility of a systemic change, like the one promoted by the inclusive democracy project, essentially, hinges on the issue of the ‘subject’ or ‘agent’ of such a change. To initiate a discussion on this crucial topic for a liberatory project the main theme explored in this issue is ‘Class and non-class inequalities’—a discussion that will be continued in the next issue and in other issues to come.
George Lafferty’s perceptive paper rightly criticises the civil society approach adopted by both the apologists of the social-liberal ‘Third Way’ approach (notably Anthony Giddens) and post-Marxists. As he correctly points out, membership of civil society today remains highly contested once the boundaries of civil society have been redefined ‘through the systematic politics of socio-economic exclusion and division’ implemented by both neoliberal and social-liberal governments. Although one may dispute whether these ‘systematic politics’ are just the outcome of the defeat of the Left rather than of the internationalisation of the market economy, the author’s criticism of the civil societarians’ notion of democracy is valid. There is no doubt that this notion is very limited since it is restricted to the actions of individual citizens within the restricted terrain of civil society (as criticised by Marx over 150 years ago). The consequent notion of ‘democratising democracy’, as Lafferty stresses, excludes, in classical liberal fashion, any broader social, economic and industrial democratisation. In other words, the notion of ‘democratising democracy’, apart from identifying ‘democracy’ with the present liberal oligarchy, excludes vital components of inclusive democracy (economic democracy, democracy in the social realm and ecological democracy). However, one may strongly disagree with the author’s position that the emphasis in Left’s political activity ‘should be on the persistent furthering of the political-economic dynamic in the direction of more democratic forms of organisation, decision-making, control and ownership, rather than on the supplanting of one type of society by another’. It is obvious that the underlying belief behind this position is, yet again, the utopian dream of a demoralised Left that it is still possible, within the present institutional framework of an internationalised market economy, to achieve important changes in this direction, instead of fighting for the building of a new massive international movement to supplant the present framework with an institutional framework of inclusive democracy.
Ariel Salleh offers an ecofeminist view of the class structure in the present ‘era of globalisation and ecological crisis’. According to this view, today, the appropriate ‘agents of history’ are what the author calls the ‘meta-industrial ‘ workers (mainly women domestic care givers and peasant farmers) who use ‘holding skills’ at the boundary between ‘humanity’ and ‘nature’ as well as an epistemology and ethic consonant with genuine democracy. However, although one may agree with this conclusion, the explanation given about the causes of the current global crisis (and the way out of it) is not consistent with the inclusive democracy project. Thus, the ecofeminist view, as the author stresses, ‘rests on the insight that the current global crisis is an outcome of unreflected eurocentric capitalist patriarchal behaviours and values ‘, and, consequently, the way out of the crisis can be found by ‘questioning old industrial habits of thought’. However, to explain patriarchal behaviours and values and what Salleh calls ‘industrial’ habits of thought, one has to refer not just to industrialism and Eurocentrism but to the historical development of hierarchical relations, which was enhanced by the separation of society from the economy, polity and nature, as well as to the process of industrial development, which took place in the commercial European societies at the time of the Industrial Revolution –a process, which inevitably led to the replacement of socially controlled markets by ‘market economies’. It is the concentration of economic power, (to which the dynamic of the market economies leads at the economic level), the concentration of political power, (to which the dynamic of representative democracy leads at the political level), in combination with the concentration of social power, (to which hierarchical relations and structures inevitably lead), that might better explain the present multidimensional crisis. This is because values, behavioural patterns and habits of thought are not exogenous variables, as ecofeminists seem to assume, but endogenous variables determined within a given institutional framework, which are then expressed as the ‘dominant social paradigm’ justifying it. But, to explain the process within which a new paradigm becomes socially dominant, one does not have to adopt either the crude Marxist view that the economic structure determines the superstructure, or the idealist view that values determine the institutional framework. This process, instead, should be seen as developing always in interaction with the process of establishing a new institutional framework, not before it. This implies that the change in values is not possible outside the struggle to change the institutional framework.
Sophia Antonopoulou’s article perceptively attempts to explain changes in the class structure of advanced capitalist countries within the Marxist framework of changes in their production structure, following the expansion of their services sector at the expense of the industrial sector, and the associated expansion of information technology. Although the author adopts the thesis of a new International Division of Labour, which implies the rapid industrialisation of parts of the peripheral countries involved in this process (a thesis against which serious reservations may be expressed), still, she does not accept the usual conclusion drawn by the neo-Marxist, post-Marxist etc. supporters of this thesis, i.e. that this is a process leading to the development of the periphery (in the Far East etc) and, consequently, the dissemination of economic power. Instead, the author correctly stresses that management and control of world production, finance and trade is today, more than ever, centralized in a few headquarters in the advanced capitalist countries. This, according to the author, implies that the argument forwarded by supporters of the ‘Third Way’ that we live today in classless societies is invalid since the class structuring mechanism still stems today from the predominance of capital, as it has always been the case in capitalist societies.
The second theme in this issue is the Balkan War and Kostas Kavoulakos, continuing the discussion we started in the July issue, offers an insightful contribution to the topic. His aim is to refute the moral arguments used by the broad Left intelligentsia to justify this immoral campaign. However, although one may easily agree with the author’s critique of the ‘morality’ of this barbarous war and of the arguments used to justify it, there may be serious reservations on the conclusions drawn from this analysis. This applies in particular to his conclusion that “Habermas is correct in that we all speak the same moral language of democracy and human rights, but the way we consider the possibility to realize a free society are radically different; if it is to retain some value, the Kantian vision of a global cosmopolitan community of people should expand to include the economic, political and cultural conditions necessary to make it real”. But, in the first place, it is not true that we all agree on the goals and that we only differ on the means. Both our goals and consequently our means are radically different from those suggested by the Habermasian Left. As regards the goals, first, Habermas talks about democracy as a set of procedures and not as a regime —as the late Castoriadis rightly pointed out. In other words, the Habermasian Left takes for granted the existing institutional framework of representative democracy and the market economy and they focus their efforts in ‘deepening’ political and economic democracy —a goal that in D&N’s problematic is both a-historical and utopian. In this sense, the problem with the Left’s stand on the war does not just emanate from the fact that it did not take into account economic, political and cultural considerations in its analysis, as the author points out, but, more ominously, in the fact that the Left today has abandoned any visions of radical change in the socio-economic system. It is this capitulation of the Left (and of the bankrupt Green movement) that may fruitfully explain their attitude towards the war —an attitude, which simply expresses their full integration into the New (political and economic) World Order. As regards the means, second, the fact that the author does not see this fatal submission of the Left is not irrelevant to the fact that his proposals focus in supporting the civil society institutions, for instance non-governenmental organisations like Amnesty, Greenpeace etc (despite their role in the war) rather than in fighting to build a new massive international movement for genuine democratic structures.
The third theme of this issue consists of an exchange on the old Marx vs. Proudhon debate and its implications for today’s libertarian movement. The first contribution in this exchange is an analysis of the 1846 Marx-Proudhon correspondence by Lutz Roemheld. In the author’s view, the split of the socialist movement into a statist and a libertarian version —which had crucial implications with respect to the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’— should be traced back to the very beginechnology controlled by the body of citizens) within a non-democratic society is an impossibility, which no amount of ‘dialectic analysis’ may transcend.
The dialogue section closes with a significant contribution to the discussion on the present crisis in relation to the project of Inclusive Democracy, which was initiated with the review articles by Peter Zegers and Michael Levin, as well as the contribution by David Ames Curtis. Dr P. Koumentakis significantly expands this debate by adding another important dimension to today’s’ multi-dimensional crisis: the biological crisis. The author’s significant conclusion is that, taking into account this often neglected dimension of the crisis, ‘it is the outcome of the struggle to replace the present institutions by the institutions of a genuine and inclusive democracy which will determine the very survival of the human race’.
Takis Fotopoulos, Editor
in Vol. 4, No. 1 of D&N. Matt Hern and Stu Chaulk offer a very interesting and significant analysis of the internet, which, as the authors show and contrary to present hype, far from enhancing genuine democracy, inherently degrades local community and therefore the possibility of such a democracy emerging. However, one may raise some serious reservations about the view of technology and society offered by the paper, as one ‘in dialectic relationship with one another, suggesting that democratic tools and a democratic society rely on one another for their emergence’. One may counter argue here that, although it is true that the emergence of a democratic technology depends on the emergence of a democratic society, the opposite is not true, as the authors seem to suggest. The emergence of a democratic technology, (i.e. of a t