“Totalitarianism” or Imperialism?-A Reflection on Enlightened Genocides and the Dictatorship of Capital

The ideal endgame of “liberal capitalism” is a world wherein networks of strong, central authorities are capable of enforcing legal structures predicated on the insurance of universal “freedom” in which each individual human can pursue their self-development to its logical conclusion. Each Individual is assumed to have a unique, “natural”  developmental potential intrinsic to their character, and thus the goal of all political economy is the freeing of such innate characteristics via the legal restriction of “excessive self-interest”-or activity by an Individual that moves beyond their particular self-development and whatever that requires into the realm of “greed.” For example, the maxim that is usually regurgitated in defense of the liberal sacred cow of “free speech” is some variation of “I may not agree with what you say, but, to live in an Open Society, I must defend to the death your right to say it.” Another such mantra of infantile “politics” is “I should be able to do whatever I want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else physically or prevents them from doing whatever they want.” In less polished form, this sentiment can also be manifested as the slogan adopted by the “libertarian” Right; “Don’t tread on me!” 

Within this utopian premise is the assumption that, while no two Individuals are exactly alike, a minority of the human population is “naturally” inclined towards specific lifestyles capable of creativity, intellectual refinement, innovation, appreciation of objectively “good” aesthetics and so on while, while large swathes of humans would like to simply exist and have no concern for education, criticism, artistry, technological progress or what have you. For the liberal, this is a spectrum rather than two camps with a definitive border. In fact, it is assumed that much (although not the majority) of the world’s population “falls somewhere in the middle.” Thus, when the central authorities are allowed to operate undisturbed by the “greed” of any self-interested Individual or “self-interest group”, all Individuals and groups naturally settle into their ideal state of existence after a period of self-development which reaches a point of personal equilibrium. The world works at full efficiency, facts and logic triumph over ignorance and biased self-indulgence, and accumulations of facts deciphered by experts emerge as good governance and educated policymaking. As one otherwise unremarkable hippie poet famously described the situation, humans function more like machines and are in turn “watched over by machines of loving grace.” 

Thus, the geist of what gets called “neoliberal technocracy” or “globalism” by reactionaries of various shades today is present already in the beginnings of what can properly be called “liberal capitalism”-or the ideological tendency of Euro-Amerikan governments managing the transition from a feudal to a capitalist mode of production and the inextricably related philosophical transition to a bureaucracy rooted in defense of “private property” by and for landowners and capitalists and their “Enlightened” moral values (free speech, freedom of movement, “universal” suffrage, “universal” “rights”, and all the other paltry bullshit Redditors who larp as Ron Swanson defend against all “irrationalities” or “extremisms” today). However, when examining how this proceeded in the real world, a curious contradiction arises. Consider the definitive role that Imperial Britain played in inventing the modern “Caste system” in India.

As Sasha Riser-Kositsky writes:

Much caste division and discrimination, including the labeling of some individuals so polluting that the higher castes could not even touch or come into close proximity with them, predated the British. Regional differences, however, were striking: different castes predominated over others depending on the region. Colonial administrators began for a host of their own reasons—both imperial and more benign—efforts to systematize, categorize, and delineate castes into a set hierarchy that had never before existed in a formal sense. While these measures effectively codified and ossified the miserable conditions of the ‘lower” castes, the British education and administrative system paradoxically began changing the lives of ordinary Indians, breaking down some of those very same conditions. While the caste system may have been originally dreamt up by ‘some speculative Brahmin’, the British cannot claim to have had any ameliorating effect when one takes into consideration the exacerbation and magnification of the depth and scope of caste discrimination which occurred under their rule.”

This approach was influenced by the debate between Edmund Burke and other titans of Enlightenment Britain, such as James Mill: “Burke took a Natural Law view of India in which the ‘peaceful and orderly polity’ was anchored in the caste system. Each Indian had a place in the structure, and each performed a task useful to society…India was to be governed ‘according to Indian experience and tradition.’” Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India employed by the British East India Company in 1772, “directed its courts to base their judgments as much as possible on texts such as the Law Code of Manu, to formalize caste law, and to apply it much more literally than the Code had presumably been applied before.” However, English judges could not read the Sanskrit that the “original” Indian laws regarding caste were written in, giving the Brahmin caste much leverage over British India. “The full might of the state arrayed behind laws based almost exclusively upon caste redoubled the importance of caste in daily Indian life, and gave the institution governmental legitimacy it had not enjoyed since during the time of Manu, if even then.”

James Mill, the son of classical liberal legend and colonial administrator of the British East India Company John Stewart Mill, condemned the Law Code of Manu as “riddled with ignorance and barbarism.” For Mill, caste was a social system unfitting civilized society, promoting “indolence, avarice, lack of cleanliness, venality, and ignorance.” However, as Kositsky writes, “While Mill’s views provided the basis for the British moral crusades against Sati and child marriage later in the 19th Century, they ultimately had little effect on the early British policies addressing caste.” Indeed, the British went out of their way to intensify racialized caste policies, often using a perverted view of “science” as a pretext.

In the late 18th Century, Max Muller, the father of “Indian studies”, proposed the term “Aryan” as a way to differentiate supposedly non-Semitic, “Indo-European” religions from their counterparts in the Semitic traditions. It was quickly picked up by colonial authorities and transformed into a racial categorization to bolster the British caste project. As Rajiv Malhotra writes, there is a “complete absence of any mention  of Aryan invasion in Dravidian literature. There is nothing about it in the huge canon of ancient Tamil literature that speaks of  such an invasion. Neither is there any mention about invasions by people from the North of the country into the South.” In spite of this, the British continued to employ “imaginary racial categories based on vague Biblical reference points” imposing these racist categories as if they were “signposts on top of the many distinctive regional and linguistic communities in India” leading to greater fragmentation and conflicts within the country.” Max Muller’s  interpretation of Vedic literature in “terms of  clash between two racial groups, led him to search for physical features in the Vedas that would identify the groups physically.  Muller interpreted nose length as one such differentiating feature.” 

Using Muller’s concepts as a jumping off point, Sir Herbert Hope Risley, a powerful and influential colonial bureaucrat at the Royal Anthropological Institute developed the Nasal Index, a ratio for measuring noses that “proved” whether or not an Indian was an Aryan or non-Aryan. Not long after his appointment as the Commissioner for the first Indian census, Risely concluded that there were 2,378 main castes and tribes (with sub-castes) and 43 races. “The social  position of  a caste varies inversely to its Nasal Index,” wrote Risley. He’d later add that caste was “more than a social system” describing it as, “a congenital instinct, an all-pervading principle of attraction and repulsion entering into and shaping every relation of life… forming the cement that holds together the myriad units of Indian society.” 

Dissolving caste “would be more than a revolution; it would resemble the withdrawal of some elemental force like gravitation or molecular attraction. Order would vanish and chaos would supervene.” Whether Risely actually believed this or not is irrelevant; the fact of the matter is that at every milestone in the construction of one of the most pervasive and longest lasting systems of ethno-religious oppression in the world, the British colonial administrators were creating such policy as an extension of the emerging “liberal capitalist” world order. The socially repressive but economically beneficial structures of British colonialism in India did not “emerge” in spite of the spirit of liberalism; in fact, the two are mutually beneficial. 

In Liberalism: A Counter-History, Dominic Losurdo observes that the liberal proclivities of the “Founding Fathers” reluctance to enshrine within the “libertarian” founding documents of the United States anything resembling abolition of slavery.  “Prior to the crisis that led to the American Revolution,” Losurdo writes, “the British on both sides of the Atlantic felt themselves to be proud subjects or citizens of a ‘land, perhaps the only one in the universe, in which political or civil liberty is the very end and scope of the constitution.’” After the “self-styled champions of liberty branded taxation imposed without their explicit consent as synonymous with despotism and slavery” the loyalist governor of Massachussetts, Thomas Hutchinson, who pointed out the hypocrisy of the Founders declaring “absolutely inalienable” rights for themselves but refusing to extend this right to American slaves. He was soon joined by Jonathan Boucher, another loyalist, who remarked that  “the most clamorous advocates for liberty were uniformly the harshest and worst masters of slaves.”

However, as Losurdo points out, “the exchange of accusations between rebel colonists and the mother country-that is, between two branches of the party that had hitherto proudly celebrated itself as the party of liberty-was a mutual, pitiless demystification.” (Emphasis mine) Britain’s own Glorious Revolution, Losurdo notes, not only failed to abolish the transatlantic slave trade, but served to expand it: “one of the liberal monarchy’s first acts of international policy was wresting a monopoly on the slave trade from Spain. On the other side, the revolution that broke out across the Atlantic  in the name of liberty involved official consecration of the institution of slavery, and the conquest and prolonged exercise of political hegemony by slaveowners.” Another “major controversy” accompanied the “revolution” of 1776:

“For a long time, like that of the blacks, the Indians’ fate had not in the slightest unsettled the deep conviction of the English on either side of the Atlantic that they were the chosen people of liberty. In both cases, they appealed to Locke, for whom…the natives of the New World approximated to ‘wild beasts’. But with the eruption of the conflict between colonies and mother country, the exchange of accusations also encompassed the problem of the relationship with the redskins. England, Paine proclaimed in 1776, was ‘that barbarous and hellish power, which hath stirred up the Indians and the Negroes to destroy us’ or ‘to cut the throats of the freemen of America’. Similarly, the Declaration of Independence berated George III for having not only ‘excited domestic insurrections amongst us’ by black slaves, but also ‘endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions’. In 1812, on the occasion of a new war between the two shores of the Atlantic, Madison condemned England for indiscriminately striking the civilian population with its fleet, not sparing women or children, and hence displaying a conduct similar to that of the red skinned ‘savages’. Having been accomplices of the barbarians, the English became barbarians themselves.”

Furthermore, for Losurdo, “there is no doubt that, along with black enslavement and the black slave trade, the rise of the two liberal countries either side of the Atlantic involved a process of systematic expropriation and practical genocide first of the Irish and then of the Indians.” Roxanne-Dunbar Ortiz concurs: “During the early seventeenth century the English conquered Ireland and declared a half-million acres of land in the north open to settlement. The settlers who served early settler colonialism came mostly from western Scotland. England had previously conquered Wales and Scotland, but it had never before attempted to remove so large an Indigenous population and plant settlers in their place as in Ireland. The ancient Irish social system was systematically attacked, traditional songs and music forbidden, whole clans exterminated, and the remainder brutalized. A ‘wild Irish’  reservation was even attempted. The ‘plantation’ of Ulster was as much a culmination of, as it was a departure from, centuries of intermittent warfare in Ireland.” Furthermore, Sir Humphrey Gilbert “who had been in charge of the colonization of Ulster” also planted the first English colonial settlement in North America in Newfoundland in the summer of 1583. The blight which tore through Irish farmland in the late 1840s gave British colonists the idea for a genocide of the Irish that is today depicted as a “potato famine” by bourgeois-liberal historians. 

There are of course modern defenders of the “liberal world order” that eventually emerged from the procession of liberal capitalist nation-states developed in the late 18th and throughout the 19th Century. Hannah Arendt, who I will return to later, has characterized the American “Revolution” as distinct from the preservation of slavery, which can be chalked up to a purely cultural phenomena: “[T]his indifference, difficult for us to understand, was not peculiar to Americans and hence must [not] be blamed … on any perversion of the heart or upon the dominance of self interest … Slavery was no more part of the social question for Europeans than it was for Americans…” However, the 18th Century French liberal Marquis de Condorcet directly observed something quite different in America, writing that , “The American forgets that negroes are men; he has no moral relationship with them; for him they are simply objects of profit … and such is the excess of his stupid contempt for this unhappy species that, when back in Europe, he is indignant to see them dressed like men and placed alongside him.” Losurdo points out that “The thesis formulated by Arendt can even be inverted. In the late eighteenth century the institution of slavery began to be unacceptable in salons where the ideas of the philosophes circulated, and in churches influenced by the Quakers or other abolitionist sections of Christianity.” 

In the same vein, there was little to no “individual liberty” for the majority of the working class in 18th Century industry. John C. Calhoun, among the most unrepentant apologists of slavery in early American government, often justified his position through positively contrasting the life of American slaves with the misery of European factory workers or occupants of the poorhouse. But, as Losurdo points out, “however horrible, poverty and degradation were not the most significant aspect of workhouses. At the start of the eighteenth century, Defoe favourably mentioned the example of the workhouse in Bristol, which ‘has been such a Terror to the Beggars that none of [them] will come near the City’.” Friedrich Engels described the workhouse as an institution not unlike the prison: “Paupers wear the uniform of the house and are subject to the will of the director without any protection whatsoever”; so that “the ‘morally degenerate’ parents cannot influence their children, families are separated; the man is sent to one wing, the woman to another, the children to a third.” In fact, Engels noted, “inmates of workhouses often deliberately make themselves guilty of any crime whatsoever in order to go to prison.” The use of the workhouse as punishment for the crime of poverty was even formalized in legislation across Europe, not in spite of liberalism, but precisely as a practical realization of its values. As Losurdo writes:

But what position did the liberal tradition as a whole adopt towards work houses and, more generally, the policy of disciplining poverty? According to Locke, it was necessary to intervene thoroughly and drastically in an infected area of society that was constantly expanding. From the age of three, the children of families not in a position to feed them should be sent out to work. Moreover, it was necessary to intervene with their parents. To discourage the idleness and dissoluteness of vagrants, it was appropriate to proceed in areas frequented by them to ‘the suppressing of superfluous brandy shops and unnecessary alehouses’. Secondly, begging should be discouraged and restricted. Beggars were obliged to wear a ‘badge’; to oversee them, and prevent them practising their activity outside the permitted area and hours, a special body was provided, the ‘beadles of beggars’, who in their turn were to be controlled by ‘guardians’ so that they performed their task with the requisite diligence and severity. But the whole community was called upon to participate in the beggar hunt, starting with the inhabitants of the house where the wretches had requested charity…With the 1834 reform, arriving in the workhouses were those who sought to escape death from starvation in some way: the workhouses must be made as odious as possible in order to reduce the number of those who sought refuge in them to a minimum. In this philosophy, which began to take shape with Malthus, de Tocqueville likewise joined: ‘It is obvious that we must make assistance unpleasant, we must separate families, make the workhouse a prison and render our charity repugnant.’”

John Stuart Mill celebrated the workhouses of the 18th Century, stating that: “Even the labourer who loses his employment by idleness or negligence, has nothing worse to suffer, in the most unfavourable case, than the discipline of a workhouse.” At the same time, Thomas Malthus, who developed his genocidal theories in the same Enlightened intellectual ferment as thinkers like Mill, was invoked by the liberal bureaucracy of England to defend the annihilation of the Irish during the “potato famine”:

After the general election of 1846 the Whig administration under Lord Russell came into power, and those who pulled the strings of power were sympathetic to the ideas of Malthus. It was the worst thing that ever could have happened to the people of Ireland at that time.

Charles Trevelyan, backed by influential sympathisers such as Charles Wood, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Whig government, was now going to handle the famine his way. The Peel administration had purchased corn which they stored in several depots in the worst affected parts of Ireland. This corn was to be resold at reduced prices. Trevelyan decided there was to be no more of that – private enterprise must supply the food. The only exception to this would be half-a-dozen inadequately stocked grain stores on the West coast, where no other food but the potato was ever available, but even these were only to be opened as a very last resort. Merchants asked for assurance that there would be no more food supplied by the government and this assurance was readily given along with the promise that there would be no more interfering with ‘the legitimate profits of private enterprise’.

If the Irish wanted famine relief they would have to work for it: with money provided by the local rates, a new public works scheme was to be introduced. If the local rates needed to be subsidised by government money then this money had to be repaid with interest within ten years (the public works scheme introduced by the Peel administration the previous year had proven much too costly). But this was not to be just an ordinary work scheme that could be of future use to the country: there would be no houses built for the dispossessed, nor hospitals for the sick; no improvements to existing roads or the country’s infrastructure – that would be taking away potential business from private contractors. Instead this blinkered administration deliberately devised projects that would be completely useless to the people of Ireland. Thus it came about that half-starved men were forced to expend there remaining strength constructing roads that went from nowhere to nowhere and bridges that spanned non-existent rivers. Often their pittance of a payment for this useless labour was delayed; as a consequence many of them died who may have lived if they had been paid on time. But even this nonsensical plan proved too costly for the government’s liking and they later decided to scrap it.”

The British bourgeoisie and its intelligentsia often came right out and admitted they wanted to kill as many Irish as possible. Malthus himself wrote that, “The land in Ireland is infinitely more peopled than in England; and to give full effect to the natural resources of the country, a great part of the population should be swept from the soil.” Trevelyan argued that, “The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.” The Times, the longstanding British paper of record, stated in 1846 that the potato blight was a “blessing”, a sentiment that was echoed by liberal politician Charles Wood later that year: “A want of food and employment is a calamity sent by providence; except through a purgatory of misery and starvation, I cannot see how Ireland is to emerge into a state of anything approaching to quiet and prosperity.” Two years later, influential Oxford professor Benjamin Jowett said, “I have always felt a certain horror of political economists since I heard one of them say he feared the famine of 1848 in Ireland would not kill more than a million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do any good.” 

Meanwhile, Englishmen like Jeremy Bentham labored to make domestic workhouses resemble prisons even more than they already did. What hold can any other manufacturer have upon his workmen, equal to what my manufacturer would have upon his? What other master is there that can reduce his workmen, if idle, to a situation next to starving, without suffering them to go elsewhere?” Bentham wrote. The philosopher’s attitudes even preifgure what would later be called “totalitarian” attitudes: “… what other master or manufacturer is there, who to appearance constantly, and in reality as much as he thinks proper, has every look and motion of each workman under his eye.” Losurdo correctly describes Bentham’s ideal society as a “gigantic concentration camp universe” where, by bypassing the very “universal” rights of man that Enlightenment liberals championed for the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeois, “it would be possible to perform the miracle of transforming the ‘dross’ that was the ‘refuse of the population’ into money.”

The 18th and 19th examples of exterminationist social engineering and desire to consciously and constantly regiment the lives of the underclasses according to the whims of the ruling class, could be multiplied endlessly. But to illustrate definitively that the origin of such reactionary modes of social reproduction already resides within the heart of “liberal democratic” idealism and the capitalist mode of production it reinforces, one need look no further than the legacy of American settlement, British colonialism, and the direct influence both imperial tendencies had on the domestic and foreign policies of the National Socialists in Germany. This influence was further complemented by the direct material relationship between American monopoly-capital and European fascism. 

To preface this section, recall Lenin’s commentary on the phenomena of competing small capitals into large monopolies and in turn the concentration of various portions of monopoly-capital into trade cartels. In Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin writes that, “…at a certain stage of its development concentration itself, as it were, leads straight to monopoly, for a score or so of giant enterprises can easily arrive at an agreement, and on the other hand, the hindrance to competition, the tendency towards monopoly, arises from the huge size of the enterprises. This transformation of competition into monopoly is one of the most important—if not the most important—phenomena of modern capitalist economy…” By the early 20th Century, Lenin says, “monopoly has become a fact” and that after “The boom at the end of the nineteenth century and the crisis of 1900-03” the large trade cartels, “become one of the foundations of the whole of economic life.” For Lenin, this means that, “Capitalism has been transformed into imperialism.” Throughout his classic pamphlet, Lenin elaborates on what he means by imperialism, noting that:

“…capitalism has now singled out a handful (less than one-tenth of the inhabitants of the globe; less than one-fifth at a most ‘generous’ and liberal calculation) of exceptionally rich and powerful states which plunder the whole world simply by ‘clipping coupons.’ Capital exports yield an income of eight to ten thousand million francs per annum, at pre-war prices and according to pre-war bourgeois statistics. Now, of course, they yield much more.

Obviously, out of such enormous superprofits (since they are obtained over and above

the profits which capitalists squeeze out of the workers of their ‘own’ country) it is

possible to bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy. And

that is just what the capitalists of the ‘advanced’ countries are doing: they are bribing

them in a thousand different ways, direct and indirect, overt and covert.” 

Lenin further defines the “labour aristocracy” as a stratum of “workers-turned-bourgeois…who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook.” The labour aristocracy become, “the principal social (not military) prop of the bourgeoisie…For they are the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, real vehicles of reformism and chauvinism. In the civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie they inevitably, and in no small numbers, take the side of the bourgeoisie, the ‘Versaillese’ against the ‘Communards’.” Later in the book, Lenin adds that under imperialism, “finance capital is the bank capital of a few very big monopolist banks, merged with the capital of the monopolist associations of industrialists; and, on the other hand, the division of the world is the transition from a colonial policy which has extended without hindrance to territories unseized by any capitalist power, to a colonial policy of monopolist possession of the territory of the world, which has been completely divided up.” 

Thus, imperialism, as an actually existing “stage” of global capitalist development,makes inevitable the “bribing” of segments of the working classes. This pits one section of the domestic working class against their peers and members of the national, non-proletarian underclasses, and pits the domestic working classes of various nations against their counterparts in “underdeveloped” nations from which the commodities that make their consumer lifestyles possible (and, in turn make the highest profits possible for the bourgeoisie) are obtained. Lenin also takes care to contrast his assessment of imperialism negatively against what he calls the “ultra-imperialism” observed by Karl Kautsky. Kautsky argues that, “Imperialism is a product of highly developed industrial capitalism. It consists in the striving of every industrial capitalist nation to bring under its control or to annex all large areas of agrarian [Kautsky’s italics] territory, irrespective of what nations inhabit it.” According to Lenin’s critique of Kautsky’s position:

Imperialism is a striving for annexations—this is what the political part of Kautsky’s definition amounts to. It is correct, but very incomplete, for politically, imperialism is, in general, a striving towards violence and reaction. For the moment, however, we are interested in the economic aspect of the question, which Kautsky himself introduced into his definition. The inaccuracies in Kautsky’s definition are glaring. The characteristic feature of imperialism is not industrial but finance capital. It is not an accident that in France it was precisely the extraordinarily rapid development of finance capital, and the weakening of industrial capital, that from the eighties onwards gave rise to the extreme intensification of annexationist (colonial) policy. The characteristic feature of imperialism is precisely that it strives to annex not only agrarian territories, but even most highly industrialised regions (German appetite for Belgium; French appetite for Lorraine), because (1) the fact that the world is already partitioned obliges those contemplating a redivision to reach out for every kind of territory, and (2) an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between several great powers in the striving for hegemony, i.e., for the conquest of territory, not so much directly for themselves as to weaken the adversary and undermine his hegemony. (Belgium is particularly important for Germany as a base for operations against Britain; Britain needs Baghdad as a base for operations against Germany, etc.)”

Lenin also criticizes Kautsky’s framing of annexations as a policy “preferred” by finance capital and not an integral part of imperialism that develops logically from the capitalist dialectic as such. That is, Kautsky is wrong to portray the tendency towards annexation as a personal choice of individual capitalists or managers of monopolistic cartels rather than something that must be carried out to continue the process of capitalist reproduction. If Kautsky’s proposition is true, Lenin writes, it follows, “that monopolies in the economy are compatible with non-monopolistic, non-violent, non-annexationist methods in politics. It follows, then, that the territorial division of the world, which was completed during this very epoch of finance capital, and which constitutes the basis of the present peculiar forms of rivalry between the biggest capitalist states, is compatible with a non-imperialist policy. The result is a slurring-over and a blunting of the most profound contradictions of the latest stage of capitalism, instead of an exposure of their depth.” (Emphasis mine) 

The ultimate example of this “slurring-over and blunting” of imperialist contradictions are Kautsky’s speculations about a new era of “ultra-imperialism” IE “a union of the imperialisms of the whole world and not struggles among them, a phase when wars shall cease under capitalism” or “the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital.” In response, Lenin asks, “Are not the international cartels which Kautsky imagines are the embryos of ‘ultra-imperialism’ (in the same way as one “can” describe the manufacture of tablets in a laboratory as ultra-agriculture in embryo) an example of the division and the redivision of the world, the transition from peaceful division to non-peaceful division and vice versa?” He points out that, “Finance capital and the trusts do not diminish but increase the differences in the rate of growth of the various parts of the world economy.” Lenin asks: “Once the relation of forces is changed, what other solution of the contradictions can be found under capitalism than that of force?” 

Later in Imperialism, Lenin states that, “in the realities of the capitalist system…’inter-imperialist’ or ‘ultra-imperialist’ alliances, no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, are inevitably nothing more than a ‘truce’ in periods between wars. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics.” Finally, Lenin concludes that, “Instead of showing the living connection between periods of imperialist peace and periods of imperialist war, Kautsky presents the workers with a lifeless abstraction in order to reconcile them to their lifeless leaders.” Were Lenin’s propositions, formulated in response to the First World War, not proven correct by the explosion of the Second World War 

One way to answer this question is to examine the direct influence that the “liberal” American legal system had on European fascism, particularly Nazi Germany. As James Q. Whitman notes in his book Hitler’s American Model: 

“On June 5, 1934, about a year and a half after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, the leading lawyers of Nazi Germany gathered at a meeting to plan what would become the Nuremberg Laws, the notorious anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi race regime. The meeting was chaired by Franz Gürtner, the Reich Minister of Justice, and attended by officials who in the coming years would play central roles in the persecution of Germany’s Jews. Among those present was Bernhard Lösener, one of the principal draftsmen of the Nuremberg Laws; and the terrifying Roland Freisler, later President of the Nazi People’s Court and a man whose name has endured as a byword for twentieth-century judicial savagery…the meeting involved detailed and lengthy discussions of the law of the United States. . In the opening minutes, Justice Minister Gürtner presented a memo on American race law, which had been carefully prepared by the officials of the ministry for purposes of the gathering; and the participants returned repeatedly to the American models of racist legislation in the course of their discussions. It is particularly startling to discover that the most radical Nazis present were the most ardent champions of the lessons that American approaches held for Germany.”

Whitman notes that the foundations of Nazi “purification” measures had a direct connection to the American eugenics movement. Referencing the work of historian Stefan Kühl, Whitman points to the “active back-and-forth traffic between American and Nazi eugenicists until the late 1930s.” He explains that, “During the interwar period the United States was not just a global leader in assembly-line manufacturing and Hollywood popular culture. It was also a global leader in ‘scientific’ eugenics, led by figures like the historian Lothrop Stoddard and the lawyer Madison Grant,author of the 1916 racist best-seller The Passing of the Great Race; or, The Racial Basis of European HistoryTheir teachings filtered into immigration law not only in the United States but also in other Anglophone countries: Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand all began to screen immigrants for their hereditary fitness.” This research had a great impact in Nazi Germany, where “the works of Grant, Stoddard, and other American eugenicists were standard citations.”

Whitman also notes that “the Nazis were consumed by the felt imperative to acquire Lebensraum, ‘living space,’ for an expanding Germany that would engulf the territories to its east.” As early as 1928, Hitler expressed admiration for American settlers, who he said “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.” During the years of genocide in the early 1940s, Whitman points out, “Nazi leaders made repeated reference to the American conquest of the West when speaking of their own murderous conquests to their east.” 

There were also numerous Nazi intellectuals who thought American history held lessons for the Third Reich.. Among them was Albrecht Wirth who, in his 1934 volume Völkisch World History,  stated that “The most important event in the history of the states of the Second Millennium—up until the [First World] War—was the founding of the United States of America. The struggle of the Aryans for world domination received thereby its strongest prop.’” Wahrhold Drascher, the author of a 1936 book titled The Supremacy of the White Race, called American independence  “the first fateful turning point” in the global awakening of the white race.After World War I, America had assumed “the leadership of the white peoples” and, for Drascher, “a conscious unity of the white race would never have emerged” if it weren’t for the United States. “America, as Nazi authors knew,” Whitman writes, “ had a history of racial exclusionism that dated to the earliest years of the Republic: When the first Congress met, among its many historic enactments was the Naturalization Act of 1790, which opened naturalization to ‘any alien, being a free white person.’ This was, as a Nazi commentator observed in 1936, an unusual measure for the time: racial restrictions were not unheard of in the eighteenth century, but they were not common.”

But, as we have seen, the United States was not alone in introducing such measures. As Whitman writes, “the Nazis were very much aware” that America was part of “a broader historically British world.” British imperialism “deposited a network of ‘free white men’s democracies’ around the globe…These included Canada and New Zealand; Australia, home of anti-Chinese agitation linked to similar agitation in California beginning in the late 1840s; and of course South Africa.” A British demographer described this Anglophone world in 1936: “[T]here are few gaps in the ring fence which has been erected in the last 50 years by the United States and the Dominions in order to exclude non-Europeans.” 

Furthermore, Nazi writers noted that British imperialism had “unwritten social laws” against race mixing. Combined, the United States and ther other descendants of imperial Britanica provided the Nazis with ample reference for the logistics of administering a “totalitarian” ethnostate.  As Nazi lawyer Otto Koellreutter wrote, “A further necessary measure for maintaining the healthy racial cohesion of the Volk lies in the regulation of immigration. In this connection it is above all the legislation of the United States and of the British Dominions that has yielded interesting results…” 

As Whitman notes:

“The publications of the early 1930s included lengthy and carefully documented studies of American immigration law and jurisprudence. For example, Heinrich Krieger, a young Nazi lawyer who was the single most important figure in the Nazi assimilation of American race law, dedicated thirty-five well-informed and thoughtful pages to American immigration and naturalization law in his important 1936 book Das Rassenrecht in den Vereinigten Staaten (Race Law in the United States)…Another striking example of a Nazi closely engaging with American citizenship law is Johann von Leers. Leers was a leading so-called “Jew expert” involved in the earliest stages of the drafting process that led to the Nuremberg Laws. He was one of the more repellant of Nazi lawyer/anti-Semites, with one of the stranger careers. A member of the party from an early date, Leers escaped Germany after the war, at first to Argentina…His review included not only an account of the Fourteenth Amendment, of Jim Crow segregation, and a state by-state review of anti-miscegenation laws, but also thirteen pages on immigration and naturalization that included detailed statistics and discussion of the law with regard to each racial minority.” 


The institutional white supremacy of the United States was particularly helpful in developing a working definition of “Jew” for the Nazi bureaucracy:

“A majority of German Jews were incontestably Jews. But the German Jewry had a substantial history of intermarriage, and there was also a heavy proportion of mixed-descent persons whose status was uncertain. By the official Nazi reckoning in 1935 there were 550,000 full and three-quarter Jews, 200,000 half Jews, and 100,000 quarter Jews in Germany. How much Jewish blood was enough to indelibly taint a child of part ‘Aryan’ descent? Which mongrelized German nationals would fall under the axe of the new Nazi laws? Here again, as German authors observed, the United States had basic lessons to teach: because it had a long history of sexual relations between masters and slaves, it was a country, as Eduard Meyer reported in 1920, that was groaning under the weight of “an enormous mass of mongrels,” and it had consequently developed a large body of law on mongrelization, defining who did and did not belong to which race. Unlike American immigration and citizenship law, moreover, this law was ‘open’: it made no secret of its racist aims, and employed no devious pathways or subterfuges.

Herbert Krier, a member of Heinrich Himmler’s inner circle, authored a paper titled Volk, Race and State which argued that, within American immigration law, “a clear understanding has been achieved that a unified North American Volk body can only emerge from the ‘melting pot’ if wholly foreign racial population masses are not tossed in with the core population, which is English-Scandinavian-German in origin, and thus made up of racially related peoples.” Edgar Saebisch, in his 1934 work, The Concept of the “National” as opposed to the “Citizen” states that, “America possesses a proud consciousness of Gemeinschaft (community and society). Any state, which like this one adopts a posture of fundamental rejection of would-be immigrants trying to push their way in, which subjects those immigrants whom it chooses to a series of tests and confessions of loyalty, shows that it values membership in a Gemeinschaft as a precious good.” Martin Staemmler, in The Maintenance of Race Purity in the Völkisch State, summarizes the way many Nazi intellectuals viewed America at the time: “The American knows very well who has made his land great. He sees that the Nordic blood is drying up, and seeks to refresh that blood through his immigration legislation.” For Whitman, however, the influential Handbook of the Jewish Question, written by Theodor Fritsch, is “particularly important.” Fritsch, “one of the guiding lights of German anti-Semitism” published the first German editions of the infamous forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and an American work titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.  

The International Jew was a compilation of various antisemitic works which American automobile magnate Henry Ford published in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. When Hitler’s Mein Kampf was first published in 1925, Ford was the only American individual the Fuhrer complimented by name, writing, “I shall do my best to put his theories into practice in Germany. …I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.” The “theories” Hitler cribbed from Ford go beyond his antisemitic proclivites; indeed, it is the very essence of “Fordism” as a mode of American social reproduction that Hitler admired. As Kees van der Pijl explains in The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class: 

“Fordism as a comprehensive conception of advanced capitalism entailed three principal elements. First, it assumed the dominance within the technical labour-process of the assembly line and mass production…The second aspect of Fordism was the recognition of wages not only as an incentive, but as a demand component as well. Ford anticipated Keynesian demand-side economic policy by approaching the standardization of the automobile as an example of the integral relationship of mass production and mass consumption. 

Thirdly, Fordism extended industrial management to the sphere of reproduction. Ford’s company welfare department intervened directly into the household budgets, savings patterns, drinking habits, even sexual mores of his workforce. As Gramsci pointed out, Ford was not content to merely standardize the labour-process, but to standardize the labourer as well . Eventually Ford embraced Prohibition, not just as moral revanchism, but partly as a global strategy for the reproduction of reliable semi-skilled labour-power capable of withstanding the nervous and physical exhaustion of the assembly-line.”

Pijl describes “the rise of a state-monopoly tendency in the bourgeoisie and the subordination of the working class to a corporatist class compromise” in the interwar years which arose as a reactionary response to the global economic crises emerging from the Depression and imperialist geopolitical conflicts not fully settled by World War 1. “Perceiving their situation in terms of a maldistribution of income blocking access to a consumer-durable standard of mass consumption,” Pijl writes, “industrial workers became increasingly receptive to a strategy of supporting the growth of productivity in return for higher wages.” Class struggle became a matter of the equally organized managers of productive capital and the working class confronting the vulture-like financiers and rentiers who passively siphoned profits from the surplus-value of production.

Fordism and European fascism represented, at least partially, the collaboration of the working class with the petit-bourgeois and monopoly-capital against the domestic threat of finance and the foreign threat of competing imperialist powers and “subversive” migrants flowing from them. In the USA, Fordism not only anticipated the Keynesian economics of the New Deal, but was incorporated into that program, while European fascism saw the coalescence between mainstream conservative politicians and “radical” organizations that formerly antagonized and, in some instances, directly challenged the bourgeois State. But in neither instance was the bourgeois State destroyed and replaced with a legitimately new form; it merely evolved to overcome its own limitations and save the capitalist mode of production as such. 

Thus, Whitman is wrong when, in America’s Hitler Model, he says that “the responsibility for Nazi crimes rests with Germans and their direct collaborators.” We must see European fascism as but one expression of a tendency intrinsic to the capitalist mode of production, which is the extension of bourgeois, “liberal” rationalism and self-preservation beyond what the legal implementation of said rationalism had formerly dubbed status quo. In other words, perceiving European fascism as genuinely a “Rightist Leninism” that Marxists had to compete with as the bourgeois State dissolved is incorrect. European fascism was the ultimate fulfillment of a State steeped in bourgeois rationalism, the logical conclusion of liberal-capitalist philosophy. It was a localized and historically unique expression of a tendency that is already present in the bourgeois status quo, exemplified in earlier eras in the colonies of Britain, the genoide of indigenous people in the Americas, and the preservation of slavery beyond the era of “libertarian” principles in both. 

What we see in fascism is merely a restructuring of the State bureaucracy and its market system within which plutocracy resides. This “restructuring” is predicated directly on a coalescence of different classes that is facilitated through the purging of any elements that directly challenges the bourgeois State or which needlessly complicates said State’s ability to fully integrate its subjects into the new methods of its social reproduction. Preexisting, reactionary consciousness among the middle classes and/or labor aristocracy is utilized as a means of resolving contradictions in particular nations (some of which aren’t immediately or visibly related to class conflict) in the favor of the State and the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism relies on periodic liquidations of surplus or unnecessary populations and in the era of monopoly/financial capital dominance the type of terror seen in fascism becomes not only a method of resolving crises capable of dissolving the system as such, but the method of ensuring the system’s survival. 

Likewise, the conceptions of “totalitarianism” as some fundamentally “immoral” method of governance that is 1)the missing link between fascism and communism 2)unrelated to the interests of the bourgeoisie itself and is instead a matter of bad conscience among particular sections of the bourgeoisie and the political bureaucracy 3) is something fundamentally antagonistic to “democracy” (which is never qualified or defined beyond the most naive or simplistic conception) are at best useless and at worst an academic myth that actively hinders one’s ability to fully comprehend the purposes of capitalist reigns of terror. As Losurdo notes, there is a certain schizophrenia innate in the concept of “totalitarianism” itself:

“…we have seen that totalitarianism can be denounced from the right or from the left. Yet, in some cases, the denunciation comes from circles and figures associated with Nazism, and it is directed exclusively against its enemies. In August 1941, during the campaign, or rather, the war of extermination against the Soviet Union, faced with a relentless and unforeseen resistance, the German General Halder explained away such resistance with the claim that the enemies had carefully prepared for the war ‘with the absolute lack of scruples typical of a totalitarian State’. Although he did not use the term ‘totalitarianism’, Goebbels explained the unexpected, unprecedented resistance that the invading army encountered in the East in a similar manner: by erasing every trace of free personality, Bolshevism ‘transforms men into robots’, ‘war robots’, ‘mechanised robots’ The accusation of totalitarianism can even be targeted at the Western enemies of the Axis. In 1937, the aspiration of fascist Italy to form a colonial empire of its own clashed with the hostility that came first of all from England, and thus England was condemned for its ‘cold, totalitarian discrimination against all that is not simply English’”

In 1947, Hannah Arendt, whose bourgeois “political science” classic The Origins of Totalitarianism is still widely cited as the definitive examination of “totalitarianism” on both the Right and the Left, denounced the “development of totalitarian methods” in Israel, referring to “terrorism” and the expulsion and deportation of the Arab population. However, as Losurdo points out, by the time The Origins had been published in 1951, “no room was left for criticism directed against the contemporary West. And, now more than ever, the only politically-correct position was the one that targeted exclusively Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union.” Once the Cold War officially got rolling in the late 1940s, it “took on the shape of an international civil war, one that tore apart all countries transversally. The best way for the Western world to face this war was to establish itself as the champion in the struggle against the new totalitarianism, which was labelled as the necessary and inevitable consequence of Communist ideology and programme.”

Arendt’s work was a particularly good resource on the Cold War’s public relations front. As Golo Mann wrote in his criticism of The Origins upon its original publication: “The first two parts of the work deal with the prehistory of the total State. Here, however, readers will not find what they usually encounter in similar studies, that is, researches on the peculiar history of Germany, Italy, or Russia…. Instead, Hannah Arendt dedicates two thirds of her work to antisemitism and imperialism, especially English-style imperialism. I cannot follow her. . . . Only in the third part, which represents the goal of the whole book, does Hannah Arendt really seem to tackle the subject.” Losurdo elaborates:

“How can the last part of Arendt’s book, which exclusively targets Stalin’s USSR and the Third Reich, coexist harmoniously with the first two parts, where Arendt criticises France (for its antisemitism) and particularly England (for its imperialism)? England was the country that played a central and ruinous role in the struggle against the French Revolution: Edmund Burke did not limit himself to defending the feudal nobility on an internal level, but he enlarged ‘the principle of these privileges to include the whole English people, establishing them as a kind of nobility among nations’. This is where the genesis of racism, ‘the main ideological weapon of imperialistic politics’, must be sought. Understandably, then, these unsettling ideologies took root particularly in England, where they fed off England’s obsession with ‘inheritance theories and their modern equivalent, eugenics’...Furthermore, it was above all in English colonies that a power free of the limitations of the capitalistic metropolis began to be theorised and experimented against ‘subject races’. Already within the English Empire, there emerged the temptation to use ‘administrative massacres’ as instruments to maintain supremacy. This is the starting point for understanding the ideology and practice of the Third Reich.”

As a matter of fact, in 1945, with Stalin still firmly in control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Arendt commended Russia for its “entirely new and successful approach to nationality conflicts, its new form of organizing different peoples on the basis of national equity.” And in contradiction to the third portion of The Origins, where Communist totalitarianism is defined by its supposed sacrifice of morality on the altar of Marxist historiography, in 1946 Arendt defended Karl Marx and the legacy of his work from the reactionary British government: “In the country which made Disraeli its Prime Minister, the Jew Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, a book which in its fanatical zeal for justice, carried on the Jewish tradition much more efficaciously than all the success of the ‘chosen man of the chosen race.’” 

However, Arendt was singing quite a different tune by 1963, when, in On Revolution, she called Marx the author of the “most pernicious doctrine of the modern age, namely that life is the highest good, and that the life process of society is the very centre of human endeavour.” This development, “led Marx into an actual surrender of freedom to necessity. He did what his teacher in revolution, Robespierre, had done before him and what his greatest disciple, Lenin, was to do after him in the most momentous revolution his teachings have ever inspired.” As Losurdo points out, “Behind Marx was the influence of the French Revolution, which Arendt condemned as well.” It would appear that revolutions as such are doomed to totalitarianism, and that even a “Leftist” version of this process is on par with fascism. 

Clearly, the concept of “totalitarianism” as a morally negative, transhistorical system associated with any enemy of Western, bourgeois “democracy” regardless of the ideological or philosophical persuasion that sustained said enemy’s State bureaucracy, is a a convenient invention of United State of America as it attempted to recolonize the former subjects of dead European empires. This neo-colonialism was to be pursued while simultaneously fending off the threats of the USSR, People’s Republic of China and their allies in the third world. By definition, any political formation which failed to live up to the standards of American democracy and work unquestioningly within the economic agenda of the Western powers after World War 2 was “totalitarian” and their subjugation by any means necessary was cast as a crusade against the same forces that had produced Nazi Germany. To quote Losurdo once more: 

 “As we have said, according to Arendt, what characterized Communist totalitarianism was the sacrifice, inspired and stimulated by Marx, of morals on the altar of the philosophy of history and its necessaritarian laws. The same argument presented in The Origins of Totalitarianism reappeared in a contribution, dated March 1949, by Dean Acheson, the United States Secretary of State during the Truman administration: NATO was the expression of the Atlantic and Western community, a community united ‘by common institutions and moral and ethical beliefs’ against a world that would not hearken to the reasons of morals, indeed, a world inspired by the ‘Communist belief that coercion by force is a proper method of hastening the inevitable.’”

The irony of this approach is twofold: on the one hand, an arguably “totalitarian” liberalism was imposed upon the world in the name of combatting totalitarianism and, on the other hand, the descendants of the very Rightist “totalitarianisms” which had been confronted in the Second World War were what sustained this totalitarian liberalism. For instance, a major pillar of postwar American geostrategy was the coalition of neofascist compradors which was known as either the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations or the World Anti-Communist League. At the same time, within the Western powers, particularly the United States, a breakdown took place between the “private” and “public” spheres that saw a deepening of the corporate interlocks and revolving doors between monopoly capital and the federal government that Lenin analyzed in his work. Losurdo notes that Arendt’s formation of the concept of totalitarianism:

“…reveals itself to be arbitrary and inconclusive even in reference to the Third Reich. If we leaf through the genealogical tree of Nazism as it is commonly viewed by the most authoritative historians, we inevitably encounter Houston Stewart Chamberlain: according to Ernst Nolte, Chamberlain was a ‘good liberal’ who ‘waves the flag of individual freedom’. Indeed, we are dealing with an author who maintains that Germanism (which, in the final analysis, is synonymous with the Western world) was characterised by the resolute rejection of ‘monarchic absolutism’ and any view of the world that would sacrifice the ‘individual’ for the sake of the community. Not by chance, Locke is seen as the ‘one who re-elaborated the new German Weltanschauung’; and, as for previous examples, one would be William of Ockham, and another, even before him, Duns Scotus, who held that the ‘individual’ constituted the ‘only reality’.

A historical reconstruction of the ‘cultural origins of the Third Reich’ cannot ignore Arthur de Gobineau, either: the author of Inequality of Human Races celebrated the ‘liberal traditions of the Aryans’, who long resisted against the ‘Canaanite monstrosity’, that is, the idea of a ‘homeland’. And, if in this context we also include Julius Langbehn, as George Mosse, among others, suggests, we can note his even stronger profession of individualistic faith, or rather, his celebration of the ‘Holy Spirit of individualism’, the ‘German principle of individualism’, this ‘stimulating force, fundamental and original of every Germanism’. The countries that represented a model for this were, for the most part, the classic countries of the liberal tradition. If Gobineau dedicated his book ‘to His Majesty, George V’, Julius Langbehn celebrated the English people as ‘the most aristocratic of all peoples’ and ‘the most individual of all peoples’. Analogously, Gustave Le Bon (an author admired by Goebbels) contrasted, in a constant and positive manner, the Anglo-Saxon world to the rest of the planet.” 

In addition to singing the praises of Henry Ford, Losurdo argues, Hitler used Mein Kampf to criticize a vision of the world which insisted on attributing a “creative, culture-creating force” to the state, and not only belittled the value of race, but also underestimated “the individual.” For Hitler, the “progress and culture of humanity” rested principally “on the genius and energy of one’s personality.” The National Socialist bureaucracy was not to forget the importance of “the creative power and ability of the individual personality” which Hitler contrasted against the “democratic mass idea”, which found its most blatant and offensive expression in Marxism. The Fuhrer argued that National Socialists “must promote respect for personality by all means; it must never forget that in personal worth lies the worth of everything human; that every idea and every achievement is the result of one man’s creative force.” Apparently fascism is only right around the corner from “liberalism.” 

Examples of this abound in the Cold War era. As I said, the World Anti-Communist League was composed of the most virulently reactionary organizations multiple “spheres of influence” had to offer. A crucial member of the organization was the notorious OUN-B, the Ukrainian nationalist organization which had collaborated directly with the Nazis and led increasingly brutal pogroms against Jews and Polish-descended Ukrainians throughout World War 2. Speaking to the uselessness of the concept of “totalitarianism”, the OUN-B were forgiven by the West for their “excesses” after rebranding as noble Ukrainian democrats standing up to the authoritarian dystopias of both the USSR and Nazi Germany. “The Banderite narrative represented their own legacy as a ‘heroic Ukrainian resistance against the Nazis and the Communists’” Carl Beck writes in his excellent paper on the modern normalization of neofascist propaganda in Ukraine. This included the incredibly cynical spinning of wartime crimes against Jews as the protection of Jewish Ukrainians, particularly protection from Poland, which is portrayed in the same light as Germany and the USSR. 

“…With its silence and repressed thoughts, has not the common theory of totalitarianism itself turned into an ideology of war, of total war, one that has helped to increase the horror it supposedly condemned, thus falling into a tragic performative contradiction?” Losurdo asks. “The struggle against totalitarianism serves to legitimate and transfigure the total war against the ‘barbarians’ who are alien to the Western world.” Indeed, one architect and manager of the Global War on Terror, a massive bloodletting of Arab, African and Asian lives predicated on “giving democracy” to supposedly “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” nations, framed the project as “a global Phoenix Program” referring to the American program in Vietnam that killed tens of thousands of civilians by giving local thugs the resources to carry out campaigns of terror. Obama’s Undersecretary of Defense, Michael Vickers, explains what this means in practice: “develop capabilities for extending US reach into denied areas and uncertain environments by operating with and through indigenous foreign forces or by conducting low visibility operations.”

As Quinn Slobodian has pointed out, the earliest neoliberal ideologues envisioned a world where borders disappeared for markets but were heavily reinforced for individuals. In this scenario, the citizens of nations which were “naturally” the most inclined towards Enlightenment values could exercise their freedoms without restrain thanks to the labor required to produce consumer goods being exported to those nations most “naturally” inclined towards barbarism. In this way, people who apparently had no higher ambition than to create cheap goods for Westerners to consume could have jobs, while Westerners could live up to their God-given “potential” as collective masses of sovereign Individuals. Samir Amin notes that, in the 21st Century, this logical conclusion of this system is a liquidation of surplus populations Malthus could have only dreamed about. I leave you with this passage from his The Virus of Liberalism to consider:

“Capitalism has always simultaneously “integrated” (that is, workers subjected to diverse forms of exploitation by expanding capital by “use” in direct terms) and excluded (that is, those who, having lost the positions that they occupied in older systems, have not been integrated into the new). But in its ascendant, and historically progressive phase, it integrated more than it excluded.

This is no longer the case, as is specifically and dramatically evident in the new agrarian question. If, as dictated by the World Trade Organization since the Doha conference of November 2001, agriculture is integrated into the whole set of general rules of ‘competition,’ thereby making agricultural and food products ‘commodities just like all the others,’ there will be definite consequences, given the huge conditions of inequality between agribusiness, on the one hand, and peasant production, on the other.

An additional twenty million modern farms, if given the necessary access to important areas of land (taking it away from peasant producers and undoubtedly choosing the best soil) and if given access to the capital markets that would enable them to acquire the proper equipment, could produce enough to replace the peasant production currently purchased by solvent urban consumers. But what would become of the billions of these noncompetitive peasant producers? They will be inexorably eliminated over the course of a few dozen years. 

What is going to become of these billions of human beings, already for the most part the poor among the poor, but who can at least feed themselves, somehow or other, though rather poorly for a third of them (three-quarters of the undernourished in the world live in the rural areas)? Fifty years of any more or less competitive industrial development, even given the fantastic hypothesis of a continual growth of 7 percent per year for three-fourths of humanity, could not possibly absorb one-third of this reserve. In other words, capitalism is by nature incapable of resolving the peasant question and the only prospect it offers is a planetary shantytown of five billion human beings ‘too many.’


We are thus led to the point where in order to open up a new field for the expansion of capital…it would be necessary to destroy-in human terms-entire societies. Twenty million newly efficient producers (fifty million human beings including their families) on one side and five billion excluded on the other. The constructive dimension of this operation represents no more than one drop of water in the ocean of destruction that it requires.

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