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By Jason Michael
Catalonia declares independence from Spain, putting paid to the idea that the modern western state is unchallengeable. We have returned to the questions and disputes of the 1930s – tensions long kept on ice.
Intelligent people get away with so much on account of our perception of their intelligence. A few years ago – while I was still an undergrad – I became friends with a retired professor of Celtic languages; an exceptionally intelligent man, a polyglot who in his spare time translated the New Testament into Cornish. Like all distinguished academics of his time, he was an authority on everything. Being a tad younger then than I am now, I bought into this illusion of omniscience hook line and sinker. Who was I to disagree with an intellectual giant?
We had one disagreement that I can remember. It was a difference of opinion that left me profoundly depressed. Walking home from church one Sunday morning he opened up on the subject of Scottish independence. It was 2005 and so long before the prospect of a referendum on that very question was on either of our horizons. His premise was that the idea of Scottish statehood was dead in the water as a result of the modern liberal democratic settlement, created in large part by the European Union.
According to this worldview democracies would no longer go to war with one another – something to do with the then popular Golden Arches doctrine; that no two countries with a McDonald’s restaurant would fight. In this schema the neoliberal democratic model had won out. This was Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history.” His conclusion followed that the maps of Europe, North America, and the Antipodes – the so-called Developed World – were set. They had somehow become immutable as a consequence of our love of the cheese burger.
Francis Fukuyama wrote “The End of History and the Last Man” in 1989. It was about how liberal democracy had conquered. Controversial!—
Eric Garland (@ericgarland) October 23, 2017
Not fifteen years after this disagreement his argument is what’s dead in the water. I’ve been to a McDonald’s in Madrid and I have it on good authority there are a number of these fake food emporia in Barcelona. So much for the Mickey-Macs doctrine! Europe is changing and so is its map, forcing me to concede once again that Marx was right: “All that is solid melts into air.”
Today the Catalan Generalitat voted in favour of independence, making it – once recognised – Europe’s newest independent state; complete with its own small corner of the map. None of these old certainties have remained unchallenged. Europe – Western Europe – has or will shortly have a cartological adjustment to make, the European Union has been shaken to its foundations, and the prospect of war is no longer unimaginable.
All of this, when I think about it now, was on the cards and it has been for a while. In fact when that 2005 conversation happened the writing was already on the wall for those prepared to read it. Back then we were in the midst of a global economic boom. On 18 November 2003 Gordon Brown, then British Chancellor, vowed the end of “the British problem:” boom and bust economics. That was it, we were all on the road to endless, unstoppable prosperity – except, that is, for the fact that we weren’t. Neoliberalism; the fusion of state policy and capitalism, was built on a slight of hand – a whole set of lies and deliberate miscalculations. This was the real house of cards.
@guardian "We've solved Boom and Bust" - Gordon Brown.—
BigBlueMystryMachine (@dailun73) July 03, 2017
This new order of the world – the “Washington Consensus” or what have you – was designed by the globalists; the new international capitalist élite, for their own benefit. It was a project dreamed up in the 1960s and 70s in the Chicago School of Economics for global financialisation, all to be achieved with the complicity of a new professional political class. At its heart was the enshrinement of neo-Feudal disempowerment, reducing workers’ rights, wages, and conditions so as to accelerate the movement of wealth to the top. It was this doctrine, the mother and father of the precariat and austerity, on which the European Union was built.
On the ground it was hoped we would forget our histories and cultures; gorging ourselves on shiny things, double cheese burgers, and pure, unfettered consumerism. They were wrong. While the ruling class saw the past as a catalogue of emperors, pharaohs, and imperial battles, to the rest of us history remained the record of our struggle – a shopping list, if you will, of unfinished business. This is as true today in Catalonia as it is in Scotland, and as it is for ordinary working people in every country the world over. We still have things to do, and they are calling time on history itself.
Catalonia will become an independent state. That much is now a historical certainty. Scotland too will break away from the United Kingdom. Forces have been unleashed that have refused to go away, and as the neoliberal project continues to unravel the conditions are being created for greater state instability. Italy, Belgium, France, and to some extent Germany will face the same movements in the next decade. Even in the United States and Canada we are seeing social forces rising to bite at the heels of the state. We have entered the age of the small nation state, or – better – we are returning to the way things were before the ascendancy of statist capitalism.
David Halliday (@DavidJFHalliday) October 27, 2017
Europe too, unless it abandons its super-state ambitions, will not long survive this change in the tide. We have realised that democracy and capitalism are not as compatible as the warmongers, ideologues, and plutocrats of the Cold War led us to believe. They started to form an unholy alliance before the Great Depression in their shared war against the expansion of communism, but that titanomachy too has evaporated – leaving democracy in an abusive relationship with its capitalist master. Yet, as Lenin rightly said, imperialism is the highest state of capitalism, and right there is your problem. Small nations are still struggling against the imperialism of greater states in thrall to capitalism. We are now at war with the whole neoliberal agenda.
It stands to reason then that everywhere we are witnessing this demand for autonomy and independence from the established states we see the old antinomians; the leftists, the socialists, the anarchists, and all those engaged in the fight against capitalism. We are returning to the unfinished business of the 1930s, a struggle put on ice after the Spanish Civil War with the beginning of World War II and then the Cold War. Those tensions were never resolved, and thus is it magically fitting that all of this should start again where it began – in Catalonia.
Catalonia Just Declared Independence From Spain