November 23, 2020
From Dissemination

Across Europe we are seeing politicians preach the necessity of austerity today so that we might someday experience a better tomorrow, so that our children are not saddled with insurmountable debt. This is falsehood is the crowning glory of a strategy whose ultimate goal that goes far beyond mere debt reduction. Austerity is not a temporary discomfort to be endured, but rather a permanent state of affairs to be ushered into place. The concessions made in the middle part of the twentieth century were an attempt to placate an ever more radical and educated proletariat, who understood that the then-current state of affairs was inherently exploitative. In order to avoid a revolutionary scenario of social tumult, the elite decided that it was necessary to toss a few crumbs from the table. Ergo, the construction of the welfare state, the apparatus of social security designed to provide a degree of protection to the unwashed masses, and thus limit the most radical tendencies of their thought. Everyday people were given a superficial stake in society, they were inculcated into the notion that is overall wealth served their best interests, and not only the interests of the highest strata of society. In Britain, the Attlee government enshrined the welfare state in the national consciousness so deeply that a consensus was formed that was adhered to for over three decades. This occurred concurrently to similar developments in Europe, and even the arch-capitalist United States acclimatised to the prevailing trends, with laissez faire capitalism on the back burner whilst the Keynesian New Deal policies of Roosevelt firmly took hold. Full employment was seen as a desirable goal, real wages increased significantly over a period of more than twenty years. Avowedly anti-capitalist ideologies did not wither and die immediately, in fact in some perverse ways they gained strength in terms of the improved bargaining power of the proletariat in relation to its supposed betters. However, the burning sense of injustice that had in the preceding century given birth to such movements was no longer as potent a factor as it had been in the industrialised Western world. The grievances which had led to a mushrooming of resentment and thus a determination to create a better society could now by countered by pointing to rising living standards for the many (albeit a many consisting actually of a relative few, in global terms). Furthermore, the increased affluence of Western workers who would have previously had nothing to lose now meant they had a stake in the system, and as such were less likely to rock the boat and risk everything upon a revolution whose ultimate results could not be predicted. The counter example of the Soviet Union, whose totalitarian tendencies were acknowledged even by averred anti-capitalists, allowed for a straightforward dichotomy to be employed rhetorically: would you rather live here, or there? This binary opposition in place, straightjacketing attempts to think more imaginatively about the kind of systems that could be trialled, the scene was set for the next stage. A new, mutated form of laissez faire gained began its rise to prominence: neoliberalism. Decrying the limitations which the state placed upon capital, the advocates of neoliberalism saw the welfare state as an obstacle to their goal of a truly free market. The past three decades have seen their strategy to eradicate the consensus established after the Second World War reap great dividends. The ultimate goal is simply an entrenchment of what we have witnessed occurring at each stage: the rich becoming richer. As individuals who see the state as inhibiting, we are presented with a quandary. The prevailing ideology seeks to destroy all aspects of the state that support people in need, leaving only its police and military apparatus in order to maintain a vice-like grip over the masses and put down any social movements that attempt to bring about genuine change. How are we to oppose this ideology, whilst simultaneously opposing the concept of the state itself? Millions are set to suffer as a result of the policies adopted by pro-austerity governments. The ultimate objective is an entrenched feudalism, a solidification and stratification of the position of the elite and everyone else, perhaps even an insidious plan for plausibly deniable depopulation. There exists a real danger of falling between two stools: by removing ourselves from any attempt to combat this strategy we remain on the margins and unable to influence proceedings by detailing why we oppose the state as an institution so vociferously, in effect confining ourselves to an anti-authoritarian ghetto and effectively abandon society to its fate. Conversely, by participating we invitation co-optation and the dilution of our ideas that castigate the state as equally reprehensible as capital itself. Either path is fraught with catastrophic risk, but surely an attempt has to be made to unite with those who share our ultimate common interests whilst doing everything possible to preserve the particular nature of our critique of the state and representative democracy as it stands. At all times it must be remembered that politics doesn’t begin and end at the ballot box. A society worthy of the name has to be won on the streets.