vol.8, no.2, (July 2002)


Editorial 10 years of D&N


Democracy & Nature  (formerly Society & Nature) is ten years old this year! It has been an exciting but at the same time difficult time. Still, thanks to the support of its readers and contributors and the help of our publishers (Aigis and later Carfax), the journal is now entering its second decade. Its main aim, since the beginning, was the renewal of the Left and the development of a new universalist paradigm, in the aftermath of the collapse of the socialist paradigm and the rise of postmodern anti-universalism, as well as the parallel triumph of reformism in the traditional Left. In other words, given that, as we stress in OUR AIMS, the collapse of statist socialism (in its forms of ‘actually existing socialism’ in the East and social democracy in the West) meant that the liberation discourse has moved from socialism to democracy, we saw the attempt to save the discussion on the project of democracy from the sort of abuse that the socialist project has gone through, as an imperative need. Particularly so since the discourse on democracy in the traditional Left has already moved to the exploration of various forms of ‘radical’ democracy, which have little, if any, relation to true democracy. We feel proud that regarding this aim, we succeeded in developing a new project, as a synthesis of the old antisystemic traditions and the radical currents within the new social movements: the Inclusive Democracy project. Inevitably, the cost of this effort was exceedingly high. As D&N expressed a new paradigm, which by definition was critical of other paradigms, it met indifference, if not outright hostility, from many quarters, (e.g. by journals and magazines of the statist Left like Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, Red Pepper and New Internationalist, but also, more surprisingly, of the libertarian Left —as the Dialogue section shows).  Still, no one has ever disputed the high quality of D&N’s contributions, (something which by itself is a big achievement) and we hope that, with the help of our readers, contributors and publishers, we will be able to continue this  task.

Unfortunately, however, we have to celebrate the completion of ten years of D&N work with an atrocious development: the launching of a new type of  global ‘war’  by the transnational elite, in the aftermath of the attacks of September last year which functioned as the catalyst for this ‘war’. As the excellent contributions on this theme show, the real aim of this ‘war’ is nothing less than the control of populations, mostly in the South but also in the North, for the benefit of the transnational elite, i.e. for the reproduction of the New World Order, which is founded on capitalist neoliberal globalisation and representative ‘democracy’. 

In my contribution (Takis Fotopoulos), I attempted to show that the so called ‘war’ against terrorism that was launched by the transnational elite  in the aftermath of the events of September 11, like the previous ‘wars’ of the transnational elite (Iraq, Yugoslavia),  aims at  securing the stability of the New World Orderby crushing any perceived threats against it.  Unlike the previous ‘wars’, this is a global and permanent war. It is a global war, because its targets are not only specific ‘rogue’ regimes, which are not fully integrated in the New World Order or simply do not ‘toe the line’, but any kind of regime or social group and movement which resists the New World Order: from the Palestinian up to the antiglobalisation movements. It is a permanent war,  because it is bound to continue for as long as the New World Order and the systemic and state violence associated with it, which aims to protect  the present huge asymmetry of power between and within nations , are perpetuated. The conclusion is that if the ultimate cause of political violence in all its forms is the asymmetry of power between and within nations, then, as long as this asymmetry is reproduced the bloody cycle of violence will be continue indefinitely. 

Carl Boggs offers an insightful analysis of the militarism-terrorism cycle and, more generally, of the dialectic between state terrorism and violent reaction. As he rightly stresses, ‘the goal of U.S. ruling elites is to make the world increasingly accessible to capital investment, free trade, and corporate domination while simultaneously closing off viable alternatives to the neoliberal New World Order’. Although one may express reservations on Bogg’s identification of the Empire with the US hegemony within the transnational elite, his article provides a brilliant description of the sheer manipulation by the mass media, with the connivance of conservative but also liberal intellectuals, of a politically unsophisticated public. The inevitable result is the creation of a stifling climate of patriotism, jingoism and ethnocentrism within which not only dissent and protest become easily marginalized but even any rational discussion of the causes of terrorism (a common feature of European political discourse on the matter) becomes impossible, even inside the supposed bastions of intellectual freedom, i.e. the University campuses.  

Arran Gare’s contribution illuminates in painstaking detail the background behind the transnational elite’s ‘wars’ with particular reference to the war on terrorism. His bright description of the machinations used to trap the victims of these wars is extremely useful. As the author rightly points out, ‘hatred as a basis for self-definition is contingent on existing power relations and undermines the basis for reciprocal recognition that is the condition for achieving a true self’—a basis which, one may add, involves  the need for a new paradigm relying on individual and social autonomy, like the one proposed by the Inclusive Democracy project. Gare is also right in insisting that ‘the most important reciprocal recognition is that which is institutionalised’. However, the institutionalisation of reciprocal recognition cannot simply be based on enhancing existing institutions like the World Court and the UN, as the author seems to assume when he approvingly quotes Chomsky on this. It is clear that a change in existing power relations cannot be based on institutions expressing the present power structures. A change in the dominant social paradigm and the institutions that are compatible with it, which could lead to the elimination of the present ‘mutually reinforcing system of hatred’, clearly depends on the emergence of a new antisystemic movement that would function as the catalyst for the radical change in institutions, in interaction with the change in the social paradigm. 

Ted Trainer’s perceptive analysis of the economic background of terrorism shows that as long as the ‘empire’ (which he identifies with the rich Western nations in general) reproduces itselfwith all the huge inequality in the distribution of resources, income and wealth that it implies terrorism, war and insecurity, as well as unsustainability, will be the endemic characteristics of the world order. This is inevitable given that, as he rightly points out, conventional development is a form of plunder since it takes most of the world’s wealth, especially its productive capacity, and allocates it to the rich few . However, when the author stresses that ‘the core problem is the powerful acquisitive drive in the Western mentality which fuels the insatiable quest for greater personal wealth and higher  “living standards”, greater corporate wealth, and a rising GDP… (and) generates imperialism and related problems, such as ecological destruction and resource depletion’ the impression given is that what is wrong is not the market economy system itself but the Western culture, as if the latter is somehow independent from the former. This impression is enhanced  when the solution recommended is some sort of ‘global economic justice’ which involves a reduction in the luxurious living standards of the rich countries in the North, without any referrence being made to the fact that that these living standards are simply averages and hide poverty (sometimes extreme) for many millions of people there--in other words, without any referrence to the need to abolish the inequalities inevitably created by the market economy, not only between the North and the South, but also within them. Still, the latter implies the abolition of class society itself rather than merely establishing a ‘Simpler Way’ of living, as the author proposes who, not surprisingly, concludes that the only hope for the future lies in the recent emergence of the Global Alternative Society Movement. However, one could raise serious resrvations on whether this movement qualifies as an antisystemic movement,  let alone a movement at all, since the main aim of its members is little else than the establishment of some sort of an ecologically sustainable society rather than the abolition of the unequal distribution of economic and political power between and within nations-- the main cause of the cycle of political violence. 

Wolfgang Haug systematically examines the available evidence about the causes of the ‘war against terrorism’ asking some crucial questions in the process, as ‘what exactly is terrorism’, ‘who has the power to define what terrorism is’ and ‘who sets the standards’? His conclusion is  that, if we apply any strict criteria seriously,the term “terrorism” is nothing but an empty phrase and the means of the two opposing forces do not differ greatly; hence, they should all together fall within the scope of the questionable phrase “terrorism.”’ However, one may raise serious reservations on the indiscriminate use of the term ‘terrorism’ to describe both the violence of the oppressor as well as that of the oppressed (a use that is implicit in the author’s stand), as this could easily lead to classifying as terrorist almost every national liberation movement in History, including those fighting military regimes, as well as the resistance movements against Nazi occupation yesterday or Israeli occupation today. It is clear that although the indiscriminate use of violence against civilians is definitely reproachable, still, the violence of the oppressors should be clearly differentiated from, and in no way equated to, that of the oppressed. 

The best seller by Hardt and Negri Empire has generally been characterised by the establishment press, but also by some in the Left, as a kind of new ‘Communist Manifesto’. As however Alexandros Gezerlis and Takis Fotopoulos stress in a review article, ‘a careful examination of the content of the book makes it clear that, far from having any radical implications similar to those of the original Manifesto, Empire should better be characterised as an ‘objective’ welcome to neoliberal globalisation’. 

Finally, in the Dialogue section, the discussion on social movements, which started in the last two issues, continues with a first-hand account of the rebellion in Argentina by Guido Galafassi, an Argentinian radical social scientist and member of  the IAB. Galafassi, after a discussion of the  background of the present crisis,  examines the power vacuum which has been created as a result of the deep economic and political crisis. He then moves on to discuss the emergence of a spontaneous movement ‘from below’ that threatens the very institutions on which neoliberal globalisation is based: the market economy and representative ‘democracy’. 

The Dialogue section concludes with a sample of the hostile attitude of the libertarian press against D&N that culminated in the refusal of Social Anarchism to publish a retraction of John Clark‘s distortions against D&N, which, however, were eagerly hosted by the editors of SA.  The text, which the editors of Social Anarchism refused to publish, is reproduced in this section.


Takis Fotopoulos, Editor