The tenth anniversary of the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’ and the end of the Cold War is an appropriate opportunity to take stock and examine the effects of marketization in the formerly planned economies. Particularly so, when the parallel internationalisation of the market economy, which has marked the rise of the New Economic Order, has already been accompanied by the corresponding rise of the New Political Order, celebrated recently in the Washington summit meeting which assigned the role of its global policeman to NATO. The war in the Balkans, induced by Nato’s criminal attack against Yugoslavia (irrespective of the blame that the Yugoslavian elite has to share for its nationalist policies), marks not just the first implementation of the New Political Order but it has also revealed its ideology: the supposed need to fight for human values like ‘democracy’ and human rights, as defined of course by the elites in control of the New Order. Needless to add that the new mission includes the use of the most effective murderous machine, the world has ever seen, in the fight against any popular movements that may have different ideas about the meaning of democracy and human rights. The first theme in this issue attempts to explore these issues and particularly to discuss the transition from statism to marketization in the ex-‘communist’ countries.
Heather Field and James Goodman in a very insightful and comprehensive analysis of the transition from statism to marketization in Eastern Europe, and after painstaking analysis of the recent evidence, derive the conclusion that ‘taking the former Soviet bloc, ex-Yugoslavia and Albania as a collective whole, there has been no realisation of net gains from transition as yet, rather a continued collapse and the development of new core-periphery relationships’. This is of course not a surprising conclusion to D&N readers since a similar conclusion was reached in the ‘Socialism and Ecology’ issue of D&N five years ago. The difference lies in the analytical framework used to explain this process which, in the case of Field and Goodman is that of globalisation, dependency and regionalisation, whereas, in D&N’s case, the transition was seen as a stage in the marketization process of these countries after the brief interval of extreme state socialism—a theme expanded further in my contribution to the present issue.
Janusz Nagiecki, in an excellent assessment of Poland’s experience of the transition to marketization, shows the new dependency links created by western agribusinesses in the Polish agricultural sector (which used to be the most independent economic sector of the Soviet empire) and the economy in general. His conclusion is that the Solidarnosk movement, which functioned as a catalyst for the collapse of the empire, has failed to lead to a ‘political system centred on neither the state nor the market but on the public sphere of a strong, pluralist, and independent civil society’—its original goal. However, the question raised here may not be, as the author puts it, whether Poland ‘will be allowed to remain loyal to the principles of Solidarity’. For D&N, it is obvious that this is an impossible goal, exactly as impossible was the original Solidarity goal. In other words, it may be argued that as long as Poland remains an integral part of the internationalised market economy, the creation of a strong, pluralist and independent civil society is a contradiction in terms and only if a truly radical democratic movement develops, aiming at the establishment of a full political, economic and ecological democracy, a new independent society may emerge in Poland.
Richard Smith, in a brilliant discussion of the transition in China, which is one of the few regimes in the world still calling themselves socialist, shows that the capitalist consumerist economy being created there not only does not solve any of the old problems but in fact creates new, though different, ones. The rapid deterioration of the environment has a prominent position among those new problems, which, however, characterise any market economy: inequality, unemployment, poverty, insecurity etc. This is why, the author concludes, the road to environmental and economic rationality can not be found in the system of a market economy (even if at present has led to high growth rates admired by the western ideologues of the market) but in a form of economic democracy and planning which would transcend the authoritarian central planning of the past. In view of the enthusiasm with which many in the self-styled ‘Left’ today embrace the nominal ‘success’ of the Chinese ‘social’ market, Richard Smith’s article is revealing.
The section ends with my own contribution (Takis Fotopoulos) in which I attempt to discuss the effects of marketization in the ex-‘communist’ countries and link this discussion to the discourse on the New Order (economic and political) and its ideology, with particular reference to the war in the Balkans.
The second theme discussed in this issue is Democracy in Theory and in Practice and examines the theoretical aspects of a genuine democracy compared to anarchism, as well the practical applications of what passes as ‘democracy’ today with particular reference to two case studies: one from the South (Africa) and one from the North (Ireland).
Amedeo Bertolo, in a perceptive discussion of the relationship of anarchism to democracy, delineates the important differences between the former and the liberal or representative versions of the latter (if they qualify as democracy) to conclude that what he calls ‘libertarian democracy’ (or what we call inclusive democracy) ‘is more or less synonymous with possible, practical anarchism’. This is a conclusion to which we would wholeheartedly agree. And it is a conclusion which has to be emphasised, particularly today, when most Anglo-Saxon anarchists turn, directly or indirectly, against democracy and adopt various forms of struggle and visions for the future which lie outside the political arena -- if they do not embrace various forms of irrationalism and mysticism, like the ones we considered in no 11/12. Bertolo’s contribution is a clear example of a highly desired attempt to expand on the best elements of the libertarian tradition, which the inclusive democracy project aims to regenerate, through a synthesis of the democratic and the socialist traditions.
Robert Pinkney’s contribution provides a useful account of the kind of political structures which developed in post-colonial Africa and of the current European interest in African ’democratisation’. Although the author does recognise the links between economic alternatives and democracy (‘I suspect that an economy geared to the requirements of world markets is less conducive to democracy than one based around sustainable development and greater self reliance’), still, what he objects is not the very system of the market economy --which however is the ultimate cause of the present catastrophe in Africa-- but ‘the excessive doses’ of free markets prescribed. But, such a view ignores the fact that the present integration of African economies into the internationalised market economy precludes any other possibilities, in fact, precludes any effective social control on markets to achieve significant social, economic or ecological objectives. This is of course hardly surprising in view of the fact that the situation is not much different in advanced market economies with stronger state machines. However, this fact seems to be ignored by the author when he declares his confidence in western democracy (‘the checks provided by civil society and the values and conventions which emerge from it, set limits to what ruling politicians can do’), despite the systematic undermining of welfare states, union rights, the right to full employment etc, which the ruling political and economic elites have imposed almost effortlessly, with no civil society being capable of reversing, or even effectively resisting, this process. One may therefore argue that de-linking Africa from the internationalised market economy, far from being ‘a luxury which Africa cannot afford’, as the author suggests, may be the only way that could secure the survival of its entire population. But, this cannot be effected by new bureaucratic elites, like the ones which strove for similar aims in the sixties, imitating the undemocratic Soviet model of central planning. Nor can it be effected through the development of civil society institutions which are fully integrated into the market economy and representative ‘democracy’, as the civil-societarian Left suggests. Self-reliance and sustainable development can only be achieved in Africa, or anywhere else, through the development of authentic democratic institutions from below. This means that the ruling elites in the West are by definition excluded from such a process. Democracy could only emerge out of the internal forces and the internal struggle in each country, with the help of an international democratic movement which will be struggling for the same aims—a movement whose development is an imperative need at the moment to stop the everyday destruction of millions of lives in Africa and all over the world that is the inevitable outcome of the present concentration of power, in the form of representative ‘democracy’ and the market economy.
Sheelagh Broderick provides another good illustration of how ‘democracy’ functions in practice, this time in the North, with particular reference to Local Agenda 21 and the rhetoric of the elites about sustainability, democratisation and participation. The author provides a graphic account of how European Union governments, like the Irish one, are busy at the moment in establishing an undemocratic institutional mechanism ‘in the name of increasing local democracy’—the implicit aim being to meet the eligibility criteria for structural funds. The author is clearly sympathetic to the theory and practice of the ‘civil societarian’ approach, (i.e. of democratisation through the enhancement of autonomous from the state institutions), which we criticised in the past as both a-historical and utopian in today’s internationalised market economy. In fact, one may read this interesting article as a clear example of why the activities of principal civil society institutions (NGOs, community groups etc) are bound to be marginalised, as long as they do not become an integral part of a comprehensive political project for radical systemic change and remain, as at present, ineffectual adjuncts of liberal oligarchy. In this sense, the conclusion one may derive from this article is that authenticity, in the sense of substantive rather than symbolic control, is clearly impossible within the framework of the market economy and what passes as democracy today.
This section on democracy closes with an excellent contribution by Michael Levin who, in a review article of Towards An Inclusive Democracy, discusses the main theoretical, as well as tactical and strategic, issues that the conception of inclusive democracy gives rise to.
Takis Fotopoulos, Editor