Migrants and Late Capitalism
Migrants moving towards
the richer countries of the West are being presented in the
mainstream public awareness in two mutually exclusive ways:
as a natural catastrophe or as something self-understandably
The public opinion industry speaks and writes either about "streams,
floods" and how to "contain" them; or it explains
it in some commonsensical manner, that the poor would just like
to pick up crumbs from the tables of the rich. The two stereotypes
are often featured together; together or separately, they always
drive towards the same conclusion: all this does not really
concern us; but "Europe" will not like us if we do
not catch these "illegals" and send them back. Fairy-tales
about the ghosts from the Orient have lulled public opinion
into a sleep dumb enough not to be disturbed by an "accident"
that killed a man, not to be moved by the introduction of the
"suspicion of the abuse of the right" into the law
on asylum. Nobody seems to care about our having become the
antemurale Christianitatis again, the dumping-ditch
under the walls of civilisation. It seems, though, that the
ideology and practice of the geopolitical watch-dog fittingly
entwine the mechanisms of world-hegemony and devices of domestic
domination. According to this ideology, the West is rich because
it is civilised - and for the same reason it is always right.
In former times, they claimed that the true and only God was
on their side. Meanwhile, this God got lost in the intermundia
of irrelevance and obtained the right to multiculturalism -
but practices remained pretty much the same: only inequalities
grew, as did dependence.
and riches belong to the same world-system: many are poor
because a few are rich.
Europeans are unnecessarily afraid that impoverished masses
will come to take away their jobs. But if capital were capable
of using their labour, it would have employed them long ago
in their own countries - or would have brought them to Europe.
As it did some four decades ago: at that time, during a period
of expansion, Europe did import cheap, undemanding and obedient
labour. Now, in times of low growth and stagnation, there
are no big profits in production, nor is there much work available.
At the same time, a technological revolution is under way,
literally disqualifying large sections of the work force.
For both of these reasons, most of the currently unemployed
in Europe do not have a real chance of getting employment
again, regardless of the threat of immigration. Cruel though
it may sound, they are redundant - within the context of the
capitalist economy, that is. In this respect, they share the
predicament of that same humanity pressing against their/our
While analysts agree that the world
system is in crisis, their interpretations diverge. Immanuel
Wallerstein holds that this is the final crisis of capitalism.
André Gunder Frank thinks that only a bicentenary crisis of
the Asian economy is coming to its end, and so is, accordingly,
the much mystified "rise of the West". According
to Pierre-Noel Giraud, only an exceptional peculiarity of
the twentieth century is withering away: while differences
among world-regions were drastically growing during the twentieth
century, internal differences within the rich regions have
been dramatically reduced. In the future, he expects those
countries with low wages and high technological capacity (India,
China, South East Asia, Eastern Europe) to catch-up increasingly
with the present rich, while internal differences in the rich
countries will irresistibly start to grow again.
According to Giovanni Arrighi's theory,
the capitalist system oscillates in cycles where material
expansion alternates with financial expansion. Every cycle
is marked by the hegemony of the world-power which is capable
of establishing an alliance between the State and the capital.
The cycle that is presently approaching its end was dominated
by the US hegemony. The United States still has political
and military supremacy, while the available capital has moved
to East Asia. If the State and the capital, although dislocated,
establish an alliance again, a new capitalist cycle is likely
to begin. If this does not happen, then capitalism will come
to its end. The new system will either be an empire without
a market, or a market without an empire.
Presently, the US is trying to prolong its hegemony by means
of political imperialism and militarism. Having no real capital
capacity any more, the US is trying to save itself with a
"regressive" pre-capitalist strategy of world-domination
- the empire. Many commentators have been musing over the
apparent paradoxical difference between Democrat Clinton and
Republican Bush who no longer intends to play the role of
the world policeman. There is no paradox if we recall the
role the Democrats played in the escalation of the Vietnam
War, and if we remember that it was a Republican who ended
this war and normalised US relations with China. And there
is no real difference either, since it is most likely that
Bush will trigger a new arms-race which will paralyse Europe
and delay the recovery of Russia.
We then come back to the initial question:
Whence the servile policy of our local political classes?
In most of the post-socialist countries, local political class
seeks support for its rule in American imperialism. This is
the way in which they adapted to the new situation brought
about by the revolutionary turmoil of the eighties. This is
also how they hindered the transformational processes of the
epoch. "The master changes, the whip remains" is
how Slovene writer Ivan Cankar defined the democratic process
at the beginning of the past century. At the end of the century,
during the transition-termidor, the whip was changed in order
for the master to remain the same.
If the Schengen-border actually becomes the limes
of the American empire, it will also become the tomb-stone
of capitalism. For such an eventuality will make it possible
to merge two revolutionary processes that have hitherto remained
separated: the struggle against the American empire (the sixties)
- and the struggle against political and repressive ("extra-economic")
forms of domination (the eighties). The former, usually epitomised
by the "sixties-revolution", but not limited to
it, has been a worldwide struggle that brought independence
to many peoples all over the world, and in which important
emancipatory progress has been made in the US itself.
The latter, usually represented by the democratic and human-rights
break-through of the eighties, evolved in Central-Eastern
Europe and in the former Soviet Union: it succeeded in bringing
down the Party-State regimes, but failed to carry on into
the second phase and to achieve the articulation of political
freedom with social justice.
In many countries, there has been a continuity
between the two processes: in the sixties, the target was
the American empire; in the eighties, it was the "extra-economic"
form of domination. If the American empire finally assumes
the manner of "extra-economic constraint", then
it will become a unique target which will unite the two forms
of the struggles in the past.
by this artist/Theorist: