Michael Hudson: We Need a New Political Vocabulary

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Yves here. Thank the persistent and very long running campaign to move the values of the US to the right for the hollowing out of the meaning of traditional political labels that Michael Hudson describes below. It can’t be said often enough that the change in the where the center was perceived to sit was not organic but the result of a well-funded, open-ended campaign codified by the Powell Memorandum of 1971, with effective propagandists like Milton Friedman as its vanguard. So the old New Deal backing mainstream has not just been marginalized but even the terms that once focused on economics stances, as in primarily about the stance towards capital versus workers, have now been bent to be more focused on social (and not social safety net) matters, conveniently also obscuring the big issue of guns v. butter

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is The Destiny of Civilization.

The July 4 landslide defeat of the neoliberal pro-war British Conservatives by the neoliberal pro-war Labour Party poses the question of just what the media mean when they describe the elections and political alignments throughout Europe in terms of center-right and center-left traditional parties challenged by nationalist neo-fascists.

Political differences between Europe’s centrist parties are marginal, all supporting neoliberal cutbacks in social spending in favor of rearmament, fiscal stringency and the deindustrialization that support of U.S.-NATO policy entails. The word “centrist” means not advocating any change in the economy’s neoliberalism. Hyphenated-centrist parties are committed to maintaining the pro-U.S. post-2022 status quo.

That means letting U.S. leaders control European politics via NATO and the European Commission, Europe’s counterpart to America’s Deep State. This passivity is putting its economies onto a war footing, with inflation, trade dependence on the United States and European deficits resulting from U.S.-sponsored trade and financial sanctions against Russia and China. This new status quo has shifted European trade and investment away from the Eurasia to the United States.

Voters in France, Germany and Italy are turning away from this blind alley. Every incumbent centrist party has recently lost – and their defeated leaders all had similar pro-U.S. neoliberal policies. As Steve Keen describes the centrist political game: “The Party in power runs Neoliberal policies; it loses the next election to rivals who, when they get in power, also run neoliberal policies. They then lose, and the cycle repeats.” European elections, like this November’s one in the United States, are largely a protest vote – with voters having nowhere else to go except to vote for the populist nationalist parties promising to smash this status quo. This is continental Europe’s counterpart to Britain’s Brexit vote.

The AfD in Germany, Marine le Pen’s National Rally in France and Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy are depicted as smashing and breaking the economy – by being nationalist instead of conforming to the NATO/EU Commission, and specifically by opposing the war in Ukraine and European isolation from Russia. That stance is why voters are supporting them. We are seeing a popular rejection of the status quo. The centrist parties call all nationalist opposition neo-fascist, just as in England the media describe both the Tories and Labour as centrists but Nigel Farage as a far right populist.

There Are No “Left-Wing” Parties in the Traditional Meaning of the Political Left

The former left parties have joined the centrists, becoming pro-U.S. neoliberals. There is no counterpart on the old left to the new nationalist parties, except for Sara Wagenknecht’s party in East Germany. The “left” no longer exists in the way that it did when I was growing up in the 1950s. Today’s Social Democratic and Labor parties are neither socialist nor pro-labor, but pro-austerity. The British Labour Party and German Social Democrats are no longer even anti-war, but support the wars against Russia and Palestinians, and have put their faith in neoliberal Thatcherite/Blairite Reaganomics and an economic break from Russia and China.

The social democratic parties that were on the left a century ago are imposing austerity and cutbacks in social spending. Eurozone rules limiting national budget deficits to 3% mean in practice that its shrinking economic growth is to be spent on military rearmament – 2% or 3% of GDP, mainly for U.S. weapons. That means falling exchange rates for eurozone countries.

This is not really conservative or centrist. It is hard-right austerity, squeezing labor and government spending that the left-wing parties supported long ago. The idea that centrism means stability and preserves the status quo thus turns out to be self-contradictory. Today’s political status quo is squeezing wages and living standards, and polarizing economies. It is turning NATO into an aggressive anti-Russia and anti-China alliance that is forcing national budgets into deficit, leading social welfare programs to be cut back even further.

What Are Called Extremist Right-Wing Parties Are Now the Populist Anti-War Parties

What is called the “far right” is supporting (at least in campaign rhetoric) policies that used to be called “left,” opposing war and improving the economic conditions of domestic labor and farmers – but not those of immigrants. And as was the case with the old left, the right’s main supporters are the younger voters. After all, they are bearing the brunt of falling real wages throughout Europe. They see that their path to upward mobility is no longer what it was for their parents (or grandparents) in the 1950s after World War II ended, when there was much less private-sector housing debt, credit-card debt or other debt – especially student debt. Back then, everyone could afford to buy a house by taking out a mortgage that only absorbed 25% of their wage income, and was self-amortizing in 30 years. But today’s families, businesses and governments are obliged to borrow rising sums just to maintain their status quo.

The old division between right and left parties has become meaningless. The recent rise in parties described as “far right” reflects the widespread popular opposition to the US/NATO support of Ukraine against Russia, and especially to the consequences for European economies of that support. Traditionally, anti-war policies have been left-wing, but Europe’s “center-left” parties are following America’s pro-war “leadership from behind” (and often under the table). This is presented as an internationalist stance, but it has become unipolar and U.S.-centered. European countries have no independent voice.

What turns out to be a radical break from past norms is Europe following NATO’s transformation from a defensive alliance to an offensive alliance in keeping with U.S. attempts to maintain its unipolar dominance of world affairs. Joining America’s sanctions on Russia and China, and emptying out their own arsenals to send weapons to Ukraine to try and bleed the Russian economy has not hurt Russia, but strengthened it. The sanctions have acted as a protective wall for its own agriculture and industry, leading to import-displacing investment. But the sanctions have hurt Europe, especially Germany.

The Global Failure of Today’s Western Version of Internationalism

The BRICS+ countries are expressing the same political demands for a break from the status quo that national populations in the West are seeking. Russia, China and other leading BRICS countries are working to undo the legacy of debt-ridden economic polarization that has spread through both the West, the Global South and Eurasia as a result of the US/NATO and IMF diplomacy.

After World War II, internationalism promised a peaceful world. The two World Wars were blamed on nationalist rivalries. These were supposed to end, but instead of internationalism ending national rivalries, the Western version that prevailed with the end of the Cold War has seen an increasingly nationalist United States lock in Europe and other satellite countries against Russia and the rest of Asia. What poses as an international “rules-based order” is one in which U.S. diplomats set and change the rules to reflect U.S. interests, while ignoring international law and demanding s that American allies follow U.S. Cold War leadership.

This is not peaceful internationalism. It sees a unipolar U.S. military alliance leading toward military aggression and economic sanctions to isolate Russia and China. Or more to the point, to isolate European and other allies from its former trade and investment with Russia and China, making those allies more dependent on the United States.

What may have seemed to Western Europeans a peaceful and even prosperous international order in the 1950s under U.S. leadership has turned into an increasingly self-promoting American order that is impoverishing Europe. Donald Trump has announced that he will support a protectionist tariff policy not only against Russia and China, but also against Europe. He has promised that he will withdraw funding for NATO, and oblige European members to bear the full costs of restoring their depleted supply of armaments, mainly by buying U.S. arms, even though these have turned out not to work very well in Ukraine.

Europe is to be left isolated. If non-centrist political parties do not intervene to reverse this trend, Europe’s economies (and also America’s) will be swept up in today’s domestic and international economic and military polarization. So what turns out to be radically disruptive is the direction in which today’s status quo is heading under centrist parties.

Supporting the U.S. drive to break up Russia, and then to do the same to China, involves joining America’s neocon drive to treat them as enemies. That means imposing trade and investment sanctions that are impoverishing Germany and other European countries by destroying their economic linkages with Russia, China and other designated rivals (and hence, enemies) of the United States.

Since 2022 Europe’s support for America’s fight against Russia (and now also against China) has ended what had been the basis of European prosperity. Germany’s former industrial leadership of Europe – and its support for the euro’s exchange rate – is being ended. Is this really “centrist”? Is it a left policy, or a right-wing policy? Whatever we call it, this radical global fracture is responsible for deindustrializing Germany by isolating it from trading with and investing in Russia.

Similar pressure is being made to break European trade away from China. The result is a widening European trade and payments deficit with China. Along with Europe’s rising import dependency on the United States for what it used to buy at lower cost from the East, the weakening euro position (and Europe’s seizure of Russian foreign reserves) has led other countries and foreign investors to offload their euro and sterling reserves, further weakening the currencies. That threatens to raise the European cost of living and doing business. The “centrist” parties are not producing stability, but economic shrinkage as Europe becomes a satellite of U.S. policy and its antagonism to the BRICS economies.

Russian President Putin recently said that the break in normal relations with Europe look irreversible for the next thirty years or so. Will an entire generation of Europeans remain isolated from the world’s most rapidly growing economies, those of Eurasia? This global fracturing of America’s unipolar world order is enabling the anti-euro parties to present themselves not as radical extremists but as seeking to restore Europe’s lost prosperity and diplomatic self-reliance – in a right-wing anti-immigrant way, to be sure. That has become the only alternative to the pro-U.S. parties, now that there is no more real left.

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84 comments

  1. ambrit

    A trite observation but certainly now more relevant than ever; todays political landscape is looking very much like the one Orwell described in his book “1984.”
    The Western MSMs are the “Ministry of Truth,” and ‘Big Brother’ is the political ‘Leader du Jour.’ The Organs of State Security we have always had, at least since 1917. Now, we have the technical abilities to enable the Panopticon Orwell described in his “fiction.” What Orwell did not envision is the part the financial sector played in the ‘closing’ of the World. But then, Orwell started out as a policeman and can be forgiven that lapse in prophecy. He wrote about that which he knew.
    All hail the return of the Class War!
    Be safe.

    Reply
    1. Mikel

      The most striking part of 1984 for me: even the alleged “resistance” was a front created by the Party and Big Brother.

      Reply
  2. AG

    Chomsky back in the day tried to point at the fact, as he saw it, that the Powell Memo was in fact the true threat, unlike the “softer” Trilateral Commission which however was what every Lefty liked to talk about…

    Many thx for the piece especially reminding of Powell.

    p.s. Do we have some longer studies by now looking into the de-industrialisation of Germany/Europe or is it too early for that?

    re: Powell Memo – excerpt from “Interview with Noam Chomsky on the State of the World”
    by C. J. Polychroniou – 26 May 2023
    https://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/26/05/2023/interview-noam-chomsky-state-world

    “(…)CJP: We have heard on countless occasions from both political pundits and influential academics that democracy is in decline. Indeed, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) claimed in early 2022 that just only 6.4% of the world’s population enjoys “full democracy,” though it is anything but clear how the sister company of the conservative weekly magazine The Economist understands the actual meaning and context of the term “full democracy.” Be that as it may, I think we can all agree that there are several key indicators pointing to a dysfunction of democracy in the 21st century. But isn’t it also the case that a perception of a crisis of democracy has existed almost as long as modern democracy itself? Moreover, isn’t it also the case that general talk about a crisis of democracy applies exclusively to the concept of liberal democracy, which is anything but authentic democracy? I am interested in your thoughts on these topics.

    NC: What exactly is a crisis of democracy? The term is familiar. It was, for example, the title of the first publication of the Trilateral Commission, liberal internationalist scholars from Europe, Japan, and the U.S. It stands alongside the Powell Memorandum as one of the harbingers of the neoliberal assault that was gathering steam in the Carter administration (mostly trilateralists) and took off with Reagan and Thatcher. The Powell memorandum, addressing the business world, was the tough side; the Trilateral Commission report was the soft liberal side.

    The Powell memorandum, authored by Justice Lewis Powell, pulled no punches. It called on the business world to use its power to beat back what it perceived as a major attack on the business world – meaning that instead of the corporate sector freely running almost everything, there were some limited efforts to restrict its power. The streak of paranoia and wild exaggerations are not without interest, but the message was clear: Launch harsh class war and put an end to the “time of troubles,” a standard term for the activism of the 1960s, which greatly civilized society.

    Like Powell, the Trilateralists were concerned by the “time of troubles.” The crisis of democracy was that ‘60s activism was bringing about too much democracy. All sorts of groups were calling for greater rights: the young, the old, women, workers, farmers,…, sometimes called “special interests.” A particular concern was the failure of the institutions responsible “for the indoctrination of the young”: schools and universities. That’s why we see young people carrying out their disruptive activities. These popular efforts imposed an impossible burden on the state, which could not respond to these special interests: a crisis of democracy.

    The solution was evident: “more moderation in democracy.” In other words, a return to passivity and obedience so that democracy can flourish. That concept of democracy has deep roots, going back to the Founding Fathers and Britain before them, revived in major work on democratic theory by 20th century thinkers, among them Walter Lippmann, the most prominent public intellectual; Edward Bernays, a guru of the huge public relations industry; Harold Lasswell, one of the founders of modern political science; Reinhold Niebuhr, known as the theologian of the liberal establishment.

    All were good Wilson-FDR-JFK liberals. All agreed with the Founders that democracy was a danger to be avoided. The people of the country have a role in a properly functioning democracy: to push a lever every few years to select someone offered to them by the “responsible men.” They are to be “spectators, not participants,” kept in line with “necessary illusions” and “emotionally potent oversimplifications,” what Lippmann called “manufacture of consent,” a primary art of democracy.(…)”

    Reply
    1. rob

      relating to the founders’ disdain for democracy, is enshrined in what the united states IS, a Republic.
      several decades ago this neoliberal project started to be noticed by more people, It seemed like the reality of “the conspiracy” people were alluding to, just seemed like the 20th century version of the “landed men who were to pull the levers of the ship of state”, insulated from the chaotic leadership of the mob.
      I always pointed out just how many of the positions /levers of power were filled by “people in the club”, clubs like council on foreign relations/royal institute of international affairs,,,, and its financial/familial orbits.. Then when you overlap the other power/money interests/entities/syndicates… it gets to be MOST of everything… gdp wise…policy wise..
      Which everyone heard as sounding like it was a conspiracy… instead of this is the example of groupthink…. a group… in belief… a network, that excuses and enables its own…. all with an eye on the prize…. it was an organic dynamic, as far as it seems… when you look at the steady stream of money which is what kept the british cosmopolitanism that was reaching out to include the anglo-american elite around the time of WWI,which morphed into the neoliberal project of post WWII; afloat in the twentieth century, until now. WHen whatever it created is trying to, and has; taken over.
      the policy is driven by the leaders of our republic…. I wonder who thinks these policy choices are a good idea… the oligarchs?…

      Reply
    2. Kouros

      A very favorite of mine, that I keep peppering the coments with, because of the opportunities provided:

      “On the morning of May 29, 1787, in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Edmund Randolph, governor of Virginia, opened the meeting that would become known as the Constitutional Convention by identifying the underlying cause of various problems that the delegates of thirteen states had assembled to solve. “Our chief danger,” Randolph declared, “arises from the democratic parts of our constitutions.” None of the separate states’ constitutions, he said, had established “sufficient checks against the democracy.””

      https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/democracy/our-chief-danger

      Reply
      1. AG

        Yeah that´s a nice one. High school teachers would be horrified if ordered to teach THAT segment.
        p.s. the link somehow leads to nowhere / “forbidden”

        Reply
        1. Kouros

          It works for me. If you search for “lapham quarterly our chief danger” that is the first link shown.

          Reply
  3. John

    The Left has abandoned many issues central the working class:
    – community and family
    – self sufficiency and independence
    – Critical thinking
    – Religious faith

    Only the right is willing to embrace these issues that are for the working class central to their identity. How can the Left be for the working people, if it does not also embrace family, and traditional values. Traditional Values that sustained the working class through history.

    Reply
      1. JBird4049

        >>>Also those of us on what was once the left in the US were also anti-war and anti-oligarchs.

        The Founding Fathers were also anti-war and anti-oligarchy. They disdained the popular masses, but they also believed that power does corrupt; to whom was given the responsibility to check the corruption that was created through too much power? Those same masses.

        All of the Founders would have been horrified by the extremely powerful oligarchy, the permanent and vast military, the security state and the deep state, the erosion of civil rights as well as the destruction of the family farms, of industry, and the various regional power centers, along with the vast wealth, power, and corruption of the financial sector.

        This is the problem with some of the critiques of the Founders; they were not pro oligarchy or mass democracy, the rule of the mob, but were more for the rule of an aristocracy, which to them was the best balance of an absolute ruler and democratic rule by the masses. What we have here is not rule by an aristocracy, but by its degraded form of the oligarchy. (What is the difference? Each level of government – the masses, the group, and the individual – have a good and a bad version with the good version being not corrupt, preferably competent, with a focus on the good of the whole. The bad is the opposite, which is what we see in our government and society.)

        Our current oligarchy does not give a fig for the welfare of anyone, but themselves, which means that they do not listen to those who they “govern” at all, but pillage instead.

        Reply
    1. Mike

      Indeed, the Left has become an urban movement, reducing the importance of industry, the industrial working-class, and small towns and farmers. The development of industrial farming coupled with automation in factories led to a theory of the dying working-class of Marx’s time, and the push to represent new interests in the urban environment- students, groups as the gays, women, minorities, with a nod to service workers. In the 80s, the death of the steel and machine industries in the Northeast certainly festered this idea in the Left. We now have a working-class fully aware of the demise in many industries (except military-related), and the threat to their families and traditional values. The urban-centered Left has no voice for them and it, too, has fallen as the class has. Is there a way to reconstruct a relevant Left? One thing it must do is develop a non-university presence, which is what the right-wing has done. Ergo, right-wing populism.

      Reply
    2. dk

      Thanks for capitalizing Left. The capitalized Right doesn’t seem willing to embrace any of these things except as a pretense to achieve power.

      The only thing that bothers me about MH’s piece here is that he doesn’t sufficiently distinguish between monied interest-mongers and non-astroturfed grassroots movements.

      But maybe it’s for the best that people have to ponder and do these things for themselves rather than rely on gesturing and largely grifting public exemplars for guidance.

      Reply
    3. AG

      “How can the Left be for the working people, if it does not also embrace family, and traditional values. Traditional Values that sustained the working class through history.”

      That is a misunderstanding of what LEFT truly is or at least once was.

      The term and the idea itself has always been much larger than such tristep as home, family, religion (aka value).
      In that the right-wing as it established itself with WWI was merely a break-away piece from the original vision of international solidarity after /as it was destroyed. Which eventually brought about the fall of the genuine left itself leaving space for right-wing policies focusing on these domestic issues ONLY. However mostly with eyeing at separation, diversion, division.

      In fact if you read the UN Declaration of Human Rights after the war you will see there repeated your points.

      On the one hand that document in part already was an ideological “capitalist” statement by the UN. On the other it scattered leftist ideals across the various articles. So the right to immigration and emigration were in some other article than the right for social security.

      Which is why attempts to heal this wound by peope like Black Panther Fred Hampton and his fascinating Rainbow Coaltion were immediately and viciously attacked and destroyed by the FBI in record time. (Compare that with the popularity and longevity of the Weathermen who fulfilled some minor role FBI could use) – since FBI (dame Hoover!) knew how dangerous that rekindling of the left as such would have been to the system at its core.

      It would have brought back the as traditional right-wing perceived ideas into a left context and model.

      With that I might end:
      Right and left are not tied at the hip as anti-left domestic German secret service (German FBI) likes to put it.

      In fact the right is a rib taken, ripped, out of the left and transformed. You can even observe this with the history of the German NSDAP and the fate of the wing under Gregor Strasser, who got himself killed taking “socialist” too much as verbatim statement for party policy.

      (Gregor Strasser being Hitler´s major party rival since 1923).

      Just here from one of his speeches – consider this in the ears of German heavy industry tycoons and their allies such as Göring or Hjalmar Schacht from German FED, who were NSDAP´s and thus Hitler´s lifeline.

      From a parliamentary speech by Strasser in May 1932

      “(…)
      “If the distribution apparatus of today’s global economic system does not understand how to properly distribute the wealth of nature, then this system is wrong and must be changed for the sake of the people. The people are protesting against an economic order that thinks only in terms of money, profit and dividends and has forgotten to think in terms of work and performance. What is interesting and valuable about this development is the great anti-capitalist longing… that runs through our people, which today has perhaps already consciously and unconsciously taken hold of 95 percent. This anti-capitalist longing is not in the least a rejection of the morally justified property that is the result of work and thrift. In particular, it has nothing to do with the senseless and destructive tendencies of the International. Rather, it is the people’s protest against a degenerate economy, and it demands of the state that, in order to secure its own right to live, it breaks with the demons of gold, the world economy, materialism, thinking in terms of export statistics… and is able to restore an honest livelihood for honestly performed labor.
      (…)”
      .

      Reply
    4. rob

      John, that word salad of supposed values is nonsense. period.
      were critical thinking involved, one would understand a traditional value of the people is doing as they are told. avoiding critical thought, and embracing fairy tales called religion; which divert the will of the people to fight for rewards in their lifetimes. and LIE to them and tell them to wait for an eternal reward AFTER they wasted their life and body working for the nobles.
      were one to think critically about the issue, people would realize that independence, and self reliability is attained by building and supporting family and community.
      Were one to be interested in what has always worked.

      Reply
  4. Acacia

    Thanks for this. So, if we jettison the traditional left/right distinction — and the case for this makes sense —, how do we map out the political landscape?

    At least in this article, the more pointed opposition seems to be (neo)liberals vs. populists, or status quo ante vs. actual change, but methinks there are some better concepts out there.

    Reply
    1. dk

      If people understood how crime and fraud work, they’d use those terms to distinguish honest actors from pretenders.

      Crime and fraud are really the only socially destructive activity patterns. Inequitable outcomes can be accidental, but to repeat them requires intent. Grifters make promises but don’t deliver as promised. But their promises, based on attractive fictions, outshine the honest pledges of practical actors.

      Reality is messy, and survival is adaptive, not achieved but automated repetition. When variations and emergencies occur, practical actors try to fix or remedy and then move on, while grifters sling blame to their advantage and keep the adversity around to threaten others with. So if one insists on neat and clear perfections, one has already fallen to the frauds and crooks.

      Reply
    2. Revenant

      I find it useful to think in terms of the immaterial globalists (assume-a-can-opener devotees of neoliberal economics, all material wants will be provided for by “markets” from an infinite universe of reasonably counterparties) and material sovereigntists (il-faut-cultiver-nos-jardins types who acknowledge and in some cases embrace the real world constraints on getting and building and making, among an arbitrary definition of their place and people).

      Reply
    3. Captain Obvious

      how do we map out the political landscape?

      By not making it one-dimensional. Painting things as xyz vs zyx, is wrong by default.

      Reply
      1. Acacia

        Yes, I take “landscape” as at least two-dimensional, and it the real world it’s generally three. :)

        Reply
  5. Ashburn

    Michael Hudson reminds us of the failure of US and European sanctions—a type of economic warfare actually—against Russia and China. Despite some pain inflicted by these sanctions and asset seizures both Russia and China appear to be doing well while the US and Europe are struggling, both economically and politically.

    So, my question is: What are the chances that at some point both Russia and China, and perhaps their BRICS partners, turn the tables on the West and start waging economic war against the West in the form of sanctions and embargoes? Seems to me that the West is far more vulnerable to economic warfare than Russia and China have proven to be.

    Reply
    1. juliania

      So… if your opponent is doing something that doesn’t work, might be a good idea to do the same thing?

      Reply
    2. CA

      What are the chances that at some point both Russia and China, and perhaps their BRICS partners, turn the tables on the West and start waging economic war against the West in the form of sanctions and embargoes?

      [ Absolutely no chance, none. China does not and will not wage wars of any kind, which is why countries from Switzerland to Ethiopia to Kazakhstan to Malaysia to Peru are steadily increasing political-economic ties with China. ]

      Reply
      1. Jorge

        They’re certainly waging war on the Philippines- and everyone else in the South China Sea.

        China is not immune to war-making- but it is immune to evangelism. The Chinese government absolutely does not care what you believe in.

        The West is evangelistic because it gets its cultural DNA from Rome, which invented political evangelism: you could become a Roman if you were not born one, a new invention in governance. The Christians stole evangelism and used it for religion.

        Reply
    3. Vicky Cookies

      Hudson has argued that the sanctions against Russia are a form of economic warfare against Europe, securing its dependency on the U.S. by blocking trading partnerships with its more natural supplier of raw materials and energy, Russia. The results would seem to speak for themselves: Germany, which had quite a convenient deal with Russia to import oil through the Nordstream pipelines, is now paying several times more for U.S. fracked gas, or LNG, and is de-industrializing due to the increased cost.

      As to when a return-fire may come, it already has.

      Reply
      1. sarmaT

        Not a form of economic warfare against Europe, as much as a way to tighten grip on all it’s vassals (whether they are in EU, outside EU but in Europe, or completly on another continent). It squeezes more juice from them, and prevents them from switching sides.

        Reply
    4. Rubicon

      Hudson has discussed this topic: Russia, China are doing their best to distance themselves away from the Big Daddy of ‘Em ALL: the US $$ System.

      Russia witnessed first hand how that US System almost completely destroyed the Russian economy during the Yeltsin Years when Oligarchs and folks like “The Harvard Boys” Robert Rubin, Jeffrey Sachs (YES, that Jeffrey Sachs) and a number of Wealthy Europeans started privatizing Russia’s industry, it’s banks, stores, etc. It was only when Putin became president that he stopped this.

      And just as the US Financial Hegemon is grabbing assets in the EU, and turning them into their own privatized system, China and the Brics are moving as a far away as possible from that Predatory $$ System. All these folks don’t care what happens to W. Europe, the UK. They’re all trying to get out of the US $$ System. They want their OWN sense of financial, economic Sovereignty.

      Reply
  6. JonnyJames

    Thank you Dr. Hudson for clarifying and explaining – language and use of terms is important. There is no traditional left in the US, UK or the EU.

    We have a great “choice” in the US and UK political systems: right-wing, authoritarian warmonger party or right-wing authoritarian warmonger party. The MassMediaCartel call right-wing authoritarian warmongers “left” because they mention LGBTQ+ or feign concern for people of color. And otherwise intelligent people go along with it uncritically. Has electronic media and “social” media electronically lobotomized people?

    The so-called supreme court decisions make bribery legal, political gifts for favors legal, and now the puppet emperor is above the law. Yet we have so many that ignore reality and pretend the US is the world’s beacon of freedom and democracy.

    By definition, the US is a democratic republic in name only, I call it a rogue empire run by a kakistocratic oligarchy. The corruption has become institutionalized in all three “branches” of govt. It’s time to emerge from the denial phase, and maybe toward the anger stage.

    Instead of legitimizing a farce and sham of so-called elections, US dwellers should boycott the polls and launch a mass demonstration with a list of demands. This won’t happen as at least half of the population is enthralled by the electronic spectacle/hallucination and actively participate in what I call “the freak show”.

    Reply
    1. K

      All oligharchies are comprised of the most unseemly & unquestionably ill-equipped. Therefore, “kakistocratic” is redundant when describing the psychosis of oligarchy.

      Reply
  7. Lefty Godot

    If politics is about the rules for structuring social relations and the role of government in implementing those rules, the difference between left and right is quite simple.

    The right believes there is a “natural” hierarchy of quality or merit based on “objective” measures, where the strong, the clever, the beautiful, those able to amass wealth, and those adept at imposing their will on others are “naturally” superior and should be given every allowance and incentive to further their success by governments and society. They represent the best in humanity and thus deserve to be given every advantage over their inferiors: the weak, the dull, the homely, the chronically impoverished, and the unimposing and ineffectual. The rules of society should be arranged to favor the superior people in every way.

    The left believes that all humans are roughly equal and deserve equal outcomes, since all measures of quality or merit are human-devised and therefore artificial and prone to bias. Thus society should encourage all to contribute to the best of their abilities and should endow all with similar benefits and status. Government should ensure that both hardships and rewards are shared equally by all, and that no one rises too high or falls too low. Any other arrangement will eventually allow the exploitation of, and predation upon, the many by the few, and institutionalize unfair social relations to the detriment of overall human potential.

    I think both of these are extreme positions, but that most of us would prefer a “center” that is closer to the left ideal than to the right ideal. People who consider themselves elite in some way would probably prefer something closer to the right ideal (when I was in high school, some of the college prep students who became enamored of Ayn Rand would fit in that group of people).

    War is much more likely to be a right-wing enterprise, whatever explanation is used to justify it. Unlike pack raiding or unorganized hooliganism, war is promoted by the elite for the benefit of the elite (in their own minds, at least) but usually fought largely by those that the elite consider their social inferiors. So anti-war activism arises more often on the left, although in today’s muddled environment it can come from the right too.

    Reply
    1. Kouros

      The left, in my former socialist country had this maxim: “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”.

      However, David Graeber describe in his (and the other David) “The Dawn of Everything” a prehistoric pictogram in which a group of people were spearing an isolated individual and his interpretation was that that individual was likely demanding a bigger share of the catch, putting himself ahead of the community.

      A better world can only be had if the blood of oligarchs is regularly spilled to fertilize the fields of democracy. The framer that said “tyranny” likely was misdirecting, because “tyranny” (see modern Russian and Chinese “dictatorships”) is the greatest and more potent enemy of oligarchy.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous 2

        I have not read Graeber but students of Rene Girard would question whether a group spearing an isolated individual might not be a case of a scapegoat or sacrificial victim being murdered to release social tensions and atone for the sins of the wider society.

        I will read Graeber.

        Reply
        1. Kouros

          In my opinion (not very educated, I admit), there is too much religious interpretation about actions in the past. Every artefact, image, object is described as having some deep religious meaning. Since early on in my life, this trope bored me and annoyed me to no ends.

          I think people were much more realists and pragmatic and living in the present. Interviews with people from recently discovered Amazonian tribes, or nomadic people in Africa, or people in Papua-New Guinee all show individuals struggling for daily life, to survive, and nobody ever mentioned any supernatural power. One fellow had seared in his memory how there was one time that they didn’t have anything to eat for four days, while women were sooo happy to have access to modern clothes.

          Here in the undisclosed location of Pacific Northwest, I read and hear about the deep spirituality of the First Nations and their extraordinary relation with the land. This contrsts very much with a dialogue between two young First Nation men, commenting about some swans in a park, first ridiculing all these ideas of beauty etc taht whities see in swans and then wondering what a good meal it would make.

          Reply
        2. Jams O'Donnell

          It’s worth reading. They produce evidence that quite a number of ancient societies developed very egalitarian political/social forms of organisation. Which is encouraging for the future after the breakdown of industrial society.

          Reply
  8. AG

    Since it touches Hudson´s text – albeit of course from an affirmative EU POV – see here German HANDELSBLATT with a new piece yesterday :

    “The West’s real problem is not Trump or Le Pen
    Anyone who blames the West’s collapse on the rise of right-wing populists and their voters is missing the point. The real problem is a different one – and one that can also be solved.”

    https://archive.is/MCLy6

    “(…)
    It is not so much voters who are going off on anti-liberal paths or unscrupulous politicians from the ranks of the new right.

    It is above all representatives of the liberal centre who exaggerate their own importance and overlook the fact that they have lost their power of persuasion and their ability to mobilise the middle of society.

    Or to put it another way: the real problem of the West, whose disintegration has reached a new pace in view of the impending electoral victory of the RN in France and of Donald Trump in the USA , is not right-wing populists such as Marine Le Pen , Donald Trump, Giorgia Meloni or even Alice Weidel.

    They are men like Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden and Olaf Scholz. In the end, it is the failure of the middle class over many years to produce top political representatives who people trust to bring about change and shape things.

    If you look at the major countries in the Western sphere, you will see that the heads of government are men (again, they are actually all men) who have historically been unpopular and who were usually unpopular when they took office.

    According to polls, Joe Biden, the US President, was already considered by the vast majority of US voters to be at best the lesser evil compared to Donald Trump four years ago. Emmanuel Macron was only able to win the last presidential election by pointing to the greater evil that would come to power in the event of his defeat.
    (…)”.

    Reply
    1. JonnyJames

      But the “polls” are for PR. Most of these polls ask “likely voters”. Since only roughly half, or a bit more, of all eligible voters actually vote, that means in a winner-takes-all (fptp) system, less than 25% of the potential electorate determine the outcome. This is especially true when you look at the Electoral College factor – less than 25% of eligible voters determine which right-wing authoritarian “lesser evil” candidate wins. So, the polls are not accurate, they perpetuate the myth of choice and they are part of Elections Inc.

      Reply
    2. ISL

      “failure of the middle class?”

      to quote the Big Lobowski – follow the money. And the middle class, in our increasingly stratified, high-Gini-economy, does not have the money.

      I see no evidence that the middle class has any say in how Western countries are ruled. You can choose Trump or Biden, but the policy remains the same (except at the margins, and especially NOT about the economics).

      To ask the question another way, if the same class funds the main political parties, is it reasonable to expect them to bite the hand that feeds them?

      Reply
      1. gestophiles

        True, Plutocracy rules. Chaos theory predicts that when systems fall apart,
        they do so with no warning. One moment, the system is coherent, the it is chaotic.
        The well-known example is that of the smoke from a candle flame, which
        rises straight and true, until at a certain point, it becomes instantly chaotic.
        500 years of Monarchy in France ended with a woman beating a drum in
        the marketplace in Paris (plus finding an unguarded gate at Versailles).
        The assassination of one Hapsburg in 1914 starts WWI.

        Reply
          1. AG

            generally, does a republic work for real without counting also as a democracy?
            After all it´s the “common good”. And as such by nature it ought to be shaped by the people. Otherwise it cannot be called res publica.
            But perhaps I am missing a few things.
            Gordon Hahn e.g. would argue otherwise describing the current US as a republic yet not a democracy.

            Reply
  9. Chris Cosmos

    This kind of lays out our political situation in the West (actually I call it the US Empire because it functions like an empire) but Hudson does not go into the dynamics that created this situation and I’d like to lay out some factors.

    The problem with the US and maybe even more Europe is that it has created, as C. S. Lewis noted, “men without chests” which essentially means people without any guiding moral values, spirituality, and a sense of meaning for their lives other than hedonism and the culture of narcissism. Despite the fact we have developed technology/techniques the handle anything from transmitting energy to conflict resolution and despite the fact we have instant access to large amounts of the human experience from our own to all the many main cultural lineages all around the world as well as numerous tribal culture past and present, and despite the fact we know, through social science that one of the chief ways to achieve happiness (we don’t need spiritual traditions) is to help others we are floundering in wars and allowing the worst among us to rule over us in a situation worse than any time in our history because we have squandered the fruits of the Enlightenment deliberately and systematically.

    We live at a time when poverty and war can be easily eliminated yet we choose to follow the entertainment and “news” media’s propaganda aimed directly at weakening us in every way possible. The problem we face is not political but cultural and spiritual (in the broadest sense of the term).

    Reply
    1. gestophiles

      Not impressed with some of the ‘guiding moral values, spiritual values, and sense
      of meaning’ extant in certain very ‘spiritual’ countries in the Middle East’.
      History has shown us that these ‘values’ have a nasty tendency to produce bigotry
      and prejudice of the worst kind- Catholics vs Protestants in England, huguenots in
      France (also Cathars), the Inquisition, Pilgrims vs Church of England, Muslims vs
      Hindus in India, etc, etc, etc.
      Each of these religions had or have ‘guiding moral values, spiritual values, and sense
      of meaning’. Each represented the ‘Other’ to the opposing spiritualists. Time has
      shown that the perception of ‘Otherness’ very often translates into deep lack of
      humanity in dealing with other religions.

      Reply
      1. Anti-Fake-Semite

        You’re making the very basic mistake of not being able to tell the difference between religious and spiritual.

        Reply
  10. rob

    I think the need for “new” language, is one of the biggest hurdles to progress there is.
    At this point people have been wired to “go-off”, on all of their respective trip-wires. on every color of the spectrum. Finding “safe” language that doesn’t hit people’s pre-conceptions and bias, seems impossible. But it is what we need.

    The other need is to come up with some way to spread information, which again is not completely rigged. “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, needs to become a reality. An opensource, transparent resource.
    A shout out to what Julian Assange did. In the realm of a new world, the idea of an opensource , place to LEAK the truth… it the best thing to happen to peoples ability know the truth, in a long time.
    It needs to be uncensored, in regard to editorializing what truth the “staff” want to include.

    we cannot get there from here. but we’re gonna have to do it anyway.

    Reply
    1. Lazar

      Nope. We need ye old English language, instead of this Newspeak. Other languages have been less affected, but the same “foreces behind the curtains” are actively working to mess them up too. NGOs are getting mucho bucks for their efforts to jam “gender stuff” (alongside everything else) into languages that are incompatible with it. They are trying to rape thousands of years of cultural heritage in front of everyone’s eyes, in order to create Newspeak version of every European language. Russians aren’t having none of that, and many others would react the same if they were strong enough.

      Reply
      1. rob

        the problem with thousands of years of cultural heritage is that just means staying backwards in your mind..
        thousands of years of some traditions are beyond worthless. They are chains, which bind the minds of people now; to the ignorance that really ruled civilization UP till NOW.
        I for one, do not envy the ignorance that rules these socially backward cultures, really without any thought as to what it really means.
        Some things are moving forward, gradually…. and I do agree that these social changes are being co-opted to push false narratives… which doesn’t mean people should think the opposite of progress is a good thing.

        you have missed my point as to a new language. I meant only the non-use of the buzz words that define what we are supposed to think… not actually another language.

        Reply
        1. Lazar

          Thousands of years of cultural heritage, was a metaphor for a language itself.

          The things you are complaining about are not a product of natural evoulution of language, but are artificial, and intentional, degradation of it (not unlike the one described by Orwell, and dubbed Newspeak). Like I already wrote, multiple languages have been targeted, which is very important thing that monolingual people could not have noticed.

          There is no need to come up with new language, or version of language, but only to revert harmful updates and get back to last more-or-less functional revision (“ye old English” was a joke). With some languages that may require some effort, with others all needed is to just let them be. In all of the cases treating the cause, and not the symptoms, is needed.

          Establishing some “Ministry of Truth” is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. Living languages are ever evolving things, and will mend themselves once people stop forcing them into “safe language” molds.

          Reply
  11. spud

    the powell memo and crank shills like milton friedman are present in any society, at any time, bubbling just below the surface.

    its good to point them out at all times, exposing them as the cranks that they are. and to make sure the economic rights of the many are in full bloom.

    but, the cranks never make headway till they get a hold of the reins of power in a political party, then actual government.

    carter, reagan and bush the first, were not their man. they never went far enough.

    their mens were the hitler, clinton, blair, obama, biden types.

    the real trick is how to identify and neutralize them, and keep them out of power.

    https://direct.mit.edu/isec/article/43/4/7/12221/Bound-to-Fail-The-Rise-and-Fall-of-the-Liberal

    “Indeed, Bill Clinton made it clear when he ran for president in 1992 that his predecessor’s concept of a new world order was not ambitious enough.26”

    “This hyperglobalized world economy was intended to be much more ambitious in scope than the economic order that prevailed in the West during the Cold War.”

    “The 2007–08 global financial crisis not only did enormous damage to many peoples’ lives, but it also called into question the competence of the elites who manage the liberal international order.47 In addition to the deterioration in relations between Russia and the West, there are worrying signs of potential conflict with China, which is determined to change the status quo regarding the East China Sea, the South China Sea, Taiwan, and the China-India border. Unsurprisingly, the United States is now more interested in containing rather than engaging China. In fact, the Trump administration recently said that admitting China into the WTO was a mistake, as Beijing’s protectionist policies clearly show that it is unwilling to play by that institution’s rules.48”

    “Creating a liberal international order involved three main tasks. First, it was essential to expand the membership in the institutions that made up the Western order, as well as erect new institutions where necessary. In other words, it was important to build a web of international institutions with universal membership that wielded great influence over the behavior of the member states.

    Second, it was imperative to create an open and inclusive international economy that maximized free trade and fostered unfettered capital markets. This hyperglobalized world economy was intended to be much more ambitious in scope than the economic order that prevailed in the West during the Cold War.

    Third, it was crucial to vigorously spread liberal democracy around the world, a mission that was frequently shortchanged when the United States was competing for power with the Soviet Union. This goal was not the United States’ alone; its European allies generally embraced this undertaking as well.27”

    “Furthermore, the liberal order’s tendency to privilege international institutions over domestic considerations, as well as its deep commitment to porous, if not open borders, has had toxic political effects inside the leading liberal states themselves, including the U.S. unipole. Those policies clash with nationalism over key issues such as sovereignty and national identity. Because nationalism is the most powerful political ideology on the planet, it invariably trumps liberalism whenever the two clash, thus undermining the order at its core.

    In addition, hyperglobalization, which sought to minimize barriers to global trade and investment, resulted in lost jobs, declining wages, and rising income inequality throughout the liberal world. It also made the international financial system less stable, leading to recurring financial crises. Those troubles then morphed into political problems, further eroding support for the liberal order.”

    Reply
    1. GramSci

      «carter, reagan and bush the first, were not their man. they never went far enough.
      their mens were the hitler, clinton, blair, obama, biden types.»

      It took many years to assassinate the memory of FDR and the Real Deal. That memory is pretty much gone now. It will take another Great Depression to bring it back.

      Reply
  12. Susan the other

    When Putin comments that it will take 30 years for relations between Russia/BRICS and the EU to normalize I get the sneaking feeling that this has already been negotiated. And by people who understand how complex international finance has become. One giant caveat that comes to mind is the possibility of two separate and competing systems, each exponentiating their way to dominance. So instead of having one horrendous mess we will have two. For the present, rumor has it that there will be a fire wall between the two systems so they cannot comingle their sovereignties. I won’t even believe that when I see it. But balancing all this future trade, technology and development by today’s standards of simply extracting from and dumping back to the already devastated environment will certainly be the fast track to extinction. So I’d just submit that the blueprint for this brave new world should be based on cyclical and circular economies that give back to Nature generously. It should serve as a focal point. Since you could argue that it is in fact the only point.

    Reply
    1. Lazar

      Negotiated with whom, when the West is non-agreement-capable (недоговороспособны)?

      Not a fire wall, but an iron curtan. You don’t need negotiations to start a new Cold War. As a matter of fact, we are half way there.

      Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      This is not a matter of negotiation. BRICS is only starting to establish itself as something meaningfully more than a forum for national leaders to meet.

      This is an assessment of how long it will take attitudes in West to change. Recall Max Planck, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” It’s similar with politics.” Alexander Mercouris remarked casually today about how deep the Putin/Russia hatred runs in the UK. I try telling otherwise rational Americans long form about how the US provoked Russia over decades, since the 1997 NATO expansion, and they quickly demonize me as a Putin stooge. This is what is driving the dynamic, not the BRICS side.

      Reply
      1. Susan the other

        “An assessment of how long it will take attitudes in the West to change.” Absolutely. And it’s possible that both sides are making similar estimates. A full generation will die off. I don’t think it will be a nuclear holocaust, more like a whimper. From my perch I think China is both a hope and a danger. The hope is that China will lead the way to an ecologically viable planet. And the rest of us will more or less keep our powder dry. In terms of a 30 year horizon, the single most important squabble to resolve is energy. Petroleum energy, non-renewables like lithium, and all the essential resources. So, in terms of a new vocabulary, we need to start talking about resources and conservation technology instead of “freedom and democracy” – and the trick will be to incorporate human and environmental rights into our new language. That part will take some serious compassion.

        Reply
  13. Jim Vail

    This is how capital imperialism works. Empires battle and make alliances in world wars to control natural resources. US empire is now threatened, and new empires willing (ready?) to take its place. Empires represent the 1%. Only a revolution led by the people (99%) would end this horrific system.

    Reply
  14. dk

    Thank you Michael Hudson for this review and analysis.

    I wonder if a closer/further examination of human migration would be helpful, in order to identify different modes and origins and outcomes of the long-extant but poorly understood phenomena.

    We can recognize some basic and distinct patterns of human migration:
    – Intent to return to place of origin, or to settle in a new land.
    – Travel for economic opportunity (including education), or to escape economic, political, or environmental conditions.

    Using these two axes we can distinguish migrant workers, settling immigrants, fleeing refugees, visiting students, and perhaps further types. I think there are some nuances to colonization that I don’t feel I understand well enough to distinguish, but I do feel that colonization should be considered to have an intent, which some eventual settlers in the various types above may not have.

    Refugees may wish to return to their origins, if economic/political/environmental conditions there were to improve for them. Such immigrants are more motivated to maintain their cultural traditions and associations than immigrants intending permanent settlement in a new land generally are (settling immigrants can become hyper-nationalistic in support of their chosen nation).

    There is another kind of migration that isn’t immigration, but involves permanent or temporary resettlement to distant regions within a large nation. This kind of migration includes moving to a distant school for studies, or moving to take a job. In either case, family and community ties become more temporary and fragile, commitment is reduced. In some ways these effects are as profound as those of trans-national immigrants, both on the migrant individual and on the communities they leave and enter.

    Centralization of production has been facilitated by transportation that can move materials and products; local manufacturers that served a region have largely disappeared, even in the case of farming. Consolidated communication networks allow services to be delivered at a distance form the service region. Among other effects, this means that for many kinds of labor, workers must relocate to the benefit of corporations achieving cost-saving and retaining profits from reducing and consolidating their production.

    In an economy where profits are not overly concentrated, where competition doesn’t reduce profit margins to the point where small enterprises can barely compete with giant ones, some of these migrations might not occur at all, and the ones with intent to return could do so with clear plans.

    Concentrations of economic power prefer that their worker pools are always large and larger than needed to fill labor roles, so that wages can be kept low, or even eliminated. War is an industry in itself, and also draws on the larger global industrial complex. The goals of corporate-context classes generate economic/political/environmental pressures that directly and indirectly drive most migration, across all categories.

    I think that attitudes to sexual diversity may have similar political valences. I feel that non-reproducing sexual selections can be natural and normal responses available to individuals born into a time of high human population and consequent social and economic competition. Similarly, social protection from unwanted pregnancy, by rape of by social pressures, would tend to contribute to population stabilization.

    This is all a roundabout way of saying that the anti-immigrant sentiments of regional right-wing movements are responses to plutocratic activities and their political goals to pursue and sequester profits from around the globe. Improving the discussion of the causes of migrations could improve effectiveness and appeal of the new movements; and similarly, consideration of sexual behaviors and gender identifications as dynamics in the larger social context, rather than in (nominally) moralized isolation. And, sorry for not being able to express this more succinctly.

    Reply
  15. Societal Illusions

    does this then leave a hole for a “true” or “real” left party to occupy? one without the neoliberal indulgence?

    Reply
  16. Froghole

    “The old division between right and left parties has become meaningless.”

    Hence the UK election campaign completely ignoring all of the vital issues, and being an exercise in mindless trivialities. The Liberal Democrats briefly made reference to the social care crisis, which is a really important issue that the major parties have funked for more than a generation, but that was about it. Indeed, most of the reporting of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign concentrated on the staged pratfalls of their leader. British politics has become a sterile neo-liberal vacuum. Labour is betting the farm on ‘growth’, but its ‘growth’ policy comprises: (i) the creation of an advisory council (which Labour tried in 1930 and the Tories in 1962, to no effect); (ii) the liberalisation of the planning laws – one of the final legacies of the Attlee government (but the Town & Country Planning Act 1947 has already been largely debauched, as can be seen across the whole country); and (iii) using pension fund capital to invest in domestic enterprises (though with an elevated risk of taxing defined contribution pension savings). This utterly feeble ‘strategy’ was devised by a recently departed head of the Treasury’s growth unit, which suggests that the administrative class is just as destitute of ideas as the political class.

    Naturally, I did not vote last Thursday. I had no wish to underpin the bogus legitimacy of a political and administrative class, and their adjuncts in the media, all of whom I hold in complete contempt.

    Reply
  17. Carolinian

    Thanks. I’ve mentioned how obsessed our culture seems to be with WW2 and I think elites like Tom Brokaw regard history as all about how the Greatest Generation saved Europe and the world during that war and then again with their Marshall Plan and now are still saving it. In such a narrative everyone else is a bit player including Russia even though they shed the blood that actually–mostly–defeated Hitler. The villains in this screenplay are the America First types who held to the “no foreign entanglements” attitude that was quite common following the US disillusionment with WW1.

    Meanwhile hindsight says if the US had not joined WW1 there might never have been a WW2 and that we did so in part at the behest of speculators like Morgan. So perhaps the rise of globalism was to blame even then and globalism needs a big Kahuna–controlled by the financiers–to call the shots.

    Blame it on capitalism therefore and its greatest champion, the United States. A pity that “the end of history” took away the alternative–at least for awhile. On the other hand the globalist narrative may be starting to crack like an ice floe. Things wear out.

    Reply
    1. gestophiles

      Ah, the usual explanation for WWII was that the Treaty of Versailles placed such
      harsh penalties on Germany that the failure of the Weimar Republic with its hyperinflation enabled Hitler to come to power.

      Reply
  18. Gulag

    In my opinion the above analysis by Michael Hudson is one of the best to have appeared on NC–ever.

    Two subtitles and their introductory sentences, in his essay, nicely describe our present reality:

    “There Are No “Left Wing” parties in the Traditional Meaning of the Political Left”

    “The former left parties have joined the centrists, becoming pro-U.S. neoliberals.”

    “What Are Called Extremist Right-Wing Parties Are Now the Populist Anti-War Parties”

    “What is called the “far right” is supporting (at least in campaign rhetoric) policies that used to be called “left” opposing war and improving the economic conditions of domestic labor and farmers–but not those of immigrants.”

    One potential way out of this present political, economic, and cultural crisis, in the search for a new political vocabulary, may be to begin to listen more carefully to the words and writings of individuals who actually lived and fought against previous totalitarian systems.

    In 1951, Ernest Junger (German World War I hero, novelist, dissident philosopher, as well as a participant in a plan to eliminate Hitler, and who lived to the age of 102) wrote a short book entitled “The Forest Passage” in which he stated:

    “A new conception of power has emerged [in the U.S.], a potent and direct concentration. Holding out against this force requires a new conception of freedom, one that has nothing to do with the washed out ideas associated with the world today. It presumes, for a start, that one does not want to merely save one’s own skin, but is also willing to risk it.”

    He talks about what he calls the mechanization of society and of himself, as this machine-like entity drags all of us into its bureaucratic gears.

    He also talks in great detail about the mindset needed to potentially defeat such an entity.

    His conception of autonomy and individuality has nothing to do with comfort, opportunity, or the fulfillment of hedonistic desires through a proliferation of consumer choices.

    It is a meditation on fear, mortality, and an older and nobler individualism, which Junger believed was capable of reversing our present managerial totalitarianism, an entity he identified in 1951–see also the contemporary writings of N.S. Lyons on this same topic).

    Reply
  19. JR

    Thank you Professor Hudson for your article. Picking up from the headline, what does it mean to be a “progressive” nowadays? Can one be a progressive and think the US should continue funding a war that is killing thousands and thousands of people in Ukraine? Can one be progressive and think Zelensky is ok? Can one still be a progressive and at the same time not condemn what is happening in Gaza? Or is one progressive if one is supportive of more “rights-oriented” movements (like say, LGBTQ+), but at the same time is totally cool with surveillance powers of government being expanded and the government making war all about the globe? At this point, I don’t really think the word progressive has any meaning anymore, and it obfuscates rather than clarifies

    How does one describe Sahra Wagenknecht’s party? I don’t really know. From what I can tell, her party represents an amalgam of left and populist (heretofore so-called right-wing) policies. I don’t know what word or small set of words can be used to describe her party. But, coming up with that small set of words to describe her party (or parties like hers) is extremely important because that small set of words carries out the function of conveying the essence of what her party is about to the population at large. Likewise, how would one describe Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain? (As an aside, I’d love to see an article about why Wagenknecht’s party did well in recent German elections but Galloway’s party basically got slammed). I’ve toyed about with the phrase “New Centrists” to define Wagenknecht’s party. I’ve also wondered if the term New Centrists could be applied to people who would be happy to work with Thomas Massie, MTG, Matt Gaetz on war, peace and surveillance issues, but work against them on other issues (or whether the term could be applied to Massie, et al, when they work on war, peace and surveillance issues). Of course, this also works the other way when in comes to describing one’s political opponents.

    I guess, Professor Hudson’s point relates to labels. I agree with his point (assuming I understand his point) that current political labels are inadequate for a variety of reasons, and new ones need to be developed.

    Reply
  20. Rubicon

    A total lack of “Proportional Representation” was seen again in the current British election there.

    It goes something like this, even if voters voted massively for the Workers Party, they will still be swallowed up by one of the big parties: Labor or Conservative.

    Can someone explain why this happens? It’s not as though those parties had to go through an Electoral College process as is done in the US.

    Reply
      1. jobs

        Thanks for posting this. It’s my favorite (short, clear and entertaining) video by far on FPTP voting, a major reason why the duopoly is nearly impossible to dethrone through voting.

        Highly recommended.

        Reply
  21. matt

    here in the beautiful United States i have observed three warring factions:

    1. pro state pro status quo neoliberals.
    1.1. at the power are the oligarchs and suzerains currently profiting from the exploitative state of things
    1.2. there are also the PMC types satisfied with the status quo because things are still okay for them.
    1.3. claim to promote ‘reason’ and ‘rational thinking’ (very enlightenment era values.) but of course, not resisting those in power supports those in power.

    2. populist xenophobes
    2.1. some of the people who espouse these views (ie, trump) are grifting and trying to take advantage of people upset at the current state of things by vocalizing issues but in praxis continuing to profit off of opression
    2.2. blue collar workers who lost their jobs, see food prices going up, are losing their stability, and are (rightfully) blaming the failures of our state and those in power. however, they also tend to blame outsiders like russia, china, or immigrants. the blaming of these actors is exacertbated by the grifters at the top who want to continue profiting. the anger towards oligarchs is legitimate, the anger towards outside parties is sorely misplaced.

    3. prodiversity leftists
    3.1. can be swayed by the pro state neoliberals who pander to DEI initiatives and such but merely do so to placate the masses and display a mirage of their goals being completed without any actual shift in power structures. pinkwashing, greenwashing, rainbowashing, etc.
    3.2. successors to early BLM before it was coopted by prostate neoliberals. the black panthers, prison abolitionists, antiwar movements, pro gay marriage, pro trans rights, antiracist, and often hesitant to work with people who make them feel ‘unsafe’ and for valid reasons. (of course you dont want to interact with people espousing transphobic and racist views.)

    i do think the solution is uniting the leftists and populists against their common enemy (the state). dare i say, unite the prolitariate against the bourgouise. the issues just come from cultural differences between the two groups. ‘you make me feel unsafe because you are grooming children and espouse antichristain views so i cant work with you’ and ‘you make me feel unsafe because you espouse racist and xenophobic views, blaming me and wanting to opress me so i cant work with you.’
    and solving the issue of these two groups who dislike each other for quite valid reasons is going to need to happen before we can make progress. which is why i stay a fan of the catholic worker movement.

    Reply
  22. Glen

    Thanks, Prof. Hudson, this is an extremely important post!

    So, a couple other points:

    Neoliberal economies end up de-industrializing the country. (Billionaires don’t like competition!)
    Neoliberal economies end up financializing the country. (Maximize profits for the billionaires, “f” everything else.)
    Neoliberal economies are sitting ducks for industrialized economies. (I.e. China/Russia has beat America.)
    Neoliberal economies cannot adapt to fight industrial economies. (America cannot adapt to compete with other economies until the neoliberal economy is completely dumped.)

    So in order to “maintain” it’s empire, America would have to undue over forty years of neoliberal development. That will never happen. The American unipolar empire is done, all we nned to fear is the stupidity of American elites while they try to adsorb this reality.

    They “F” their own empire, and there is no undoing it.

    Reply
  23. Craig Dempsey

    There is a fine term out there for what political position is needed, and that is “progressive.” Progressives want civil rights for all, an end to imperial wars, and a just economic system. Just look how hard MIC forces are using tools such as AIPAC to defeat the few progressives in the Democratic Party. They got their first expensive victim in Jamaal Bowman, who was defeated by a centrist Democrat in his recent primary. Considering how little time global warming is leaving us to right our ship of state, we should be focusing on the best building blocks available. Sadly, our elections are a secretive version of what Iran does openly, namely the system picks the candidates, reducing the value of your vote.

    Reply
  24. Glen

    Thanks, Prof. Hudson, important post!

    A couple other observations:

    Neoliberal economies de-industrialize the country. (Billionaires don’t like real free market capitalism.)
    Neoliberal economies wreck the commons of education, science, and healthcare. (Again, billionaires will destroy real free markets.)
    Neoliberal economies cannot compete with industrial economies. (America has already lost the New Cold War to Russia/China/BRICS.)
    America and the West cannot compete with BRICS until the neoliberal economy is destroyed.

    Reply
    1. skippy

      “Billionaires don’t like real free market capitalism.”

      Actually the – Term Free Markets – post MPS [AET], Hayek, and Lippmann has no relationship with its older classical meaning e.g. Smith et al.

      It was bastardized/corrupted just like Keynes was in establishing neo/new and now paleo Keynesian with synergies of neoclassical e.g. bad maths and physics by neoliberal sorts.

      Free Markets in the classical sense is about free from rents/corruption/collusion/price fixing/non social dynamic. This is all highlighted by when wages and productivity diverged in the mid 70s and the advent of FIRE sector Economics which is just financialization by any other means where the top can skim everything and via it maintain power in shaping society for its benefit. This is why any sort of social democracy is abhorred by power, loss of control over the narrative and brass ring that one might get lucky and join the club. Hence the stamped for quick monies via crypto, digital fads like AI/influencers/etc.

      Have a care Glen …. No such thing as Free in markets as they are all proceeded by government/politics which shape them.

      Reply
      1. Glen

        Yes, thank you! Thanks to NC I’ve been made aware of how the definition of free market since Smith has been bent and twisted as required to preach/push a political agenda. What I find ironic is that politics that ENABLED America to become the unipolar empire were destroyed by elite toxic mix of neoliberalism economy and neocon foreign policy.

        Reply
  25. Victor Sciamarelli

    Another intriguing warning provided by MH. And before we, “break up Russia, and then do the same to China” I think a few words about Asian history would help.
    In the first half of the 20th century, Asia, specifically East Asia, was a mess: war, revolution, European and US domination, independence and anti-colonial movements, and finally the WW2 defeat of the Japanese Empire and the victory of the Chinese Communists.
    In contrast, East Asia in the second half of the 20th century, especially after 1975, has been remarkably peaceful. According to scholar David Kang, a rising China and peace in East Asia is not a coincidence.
    For Kang, China is not rising but “returning” to a central position and which for many centuries when China was stable and strong, Asia was at peace and prosperity increased. China is strong but the countries of EA accept that fact. They don’t fear China, rather there is increasing trade and economic integration. China is not a threat but an opportunity and EA continues to integrate their economies.
    This stands in stark contrast to the US and Euro history of a millennium of shifting borders and endless wars. American and European education projects this violence on the world when, in fact, it hardly existed.
    For Kang, issues of the South China Sea are trivial, Asians can live with N Korea, and Taiwan over time will be peacefully settled. There is nothing on the table that approaches the NATO/UA-Russia war.
    For example, before Okinawa was Okinawa it was an independent region which traded with Japan and China. Japan invaded and annexed the island centuries ago and it’s never giving it back. In contrast, Taiwan is officially part of China since before the US was created. Asians know their history and no Asian nation is going to support the US and join a war over Taiwan.
    Here is an interesting talk not to long ago.
    Kang: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8Adsvbhtzbk
    And Kang is one of the few people I know who I think bested Mearsheimer in a debate.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wafCm3fmF7s&pp=ygUXS2FuZyBtZWFyc2hlaW1lciBkZWJhdGU=

    Reply
  26. fjallstrom

    Hudson is correct about the neo liberal centre, but wrong about the far right. The European far right is as a rule not not in practice opposing neoliberalism or war. The function of the far right is to blame the failures of the neoliberal system on an “other”, allowing the system to continue.

    This other can be the EU, or supranational elites, but it is more often immigrants or minorities. Or trans people, because why not import the US culture war while you are at it?

    And when in power, as in Italy, or supporting the government like in Sweden, they are not opposed to austerity or war. Or NATO for that matter, the only opposition to joining NATO in Sweden came from the greens and the left party (which is the former communist party, to the left of the social democrats). On the contrary, it’s austerity and war and blaming it on the chosen other.

    Reply
    1. Michael Hudson

      Yes, that does seem to be the destiny. One can only hope that there is a split in the party, and its leaders will see that their real populist hope is to oppose the neoliberals. That is the fight that will occur in every rightist party. Remember Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives against the brownshirts, which were the more “socialist” Nazis.
      One a right-wing party comes to power with populist rhetoric, this tension always will occur.

      Reply
      1. AG

        Michael

        Since you mention the “Long Knives” –

        German daily JUNGE WELT (the only serious German paper left and as such under surveillance by German FBI) – just published a 2-part essay by the late Reinhard Opitz on the events preceding the 1934 July mass murder.

        I doubt google transl will do justice to Opitz´ odd syntax but I have nothing better to offer, except the German original.

        Recommended to everyone else of course, too.
        First time published in this form after his death in 1986.

        It´s basically about the economics behind the two contending forces in Germany both attempting to break the lid put onto German rearmament after Versailles, as arms were the only means for German heavy industry to make business in a very difficult economic situation.

        (Reminds a lot of the present crisis.)

        One group, the SA/Röhm/Strasser/IG Farben (I mentioned Strasser above). The other, the “more capitalist” under Göring/ Himmler/Thyssen and in fact Hitler, who – a coward as always – tried to save face by only playing the honest broker (albeit Opitz argues that Hitler might truly have held open both options for himself, deciding on Röhm´s murder only in the very last moment.)

        part 1:
        “Shortened transverse front
        In the spring of 1934, the Hitler-Papen cabinet was in crisis. Circles around Kurt von Schleicher were forging plans to reshuffle the government. The narrow history of June 30, 1934 (Part 1) ”

        Engl:
        https://archive.is/LyS53
        German:
        https://archive.is/4xbCa

        part 2:
        “Before the Night of the Long Knives
        SA rearms, Reichswehr on alert, murder plans take shape. The narrower history of June 30, 1934 (Part 2 and conclusion) ”

        Engl:
        https://archive.is/8OapF
        German:
        https://archive.is/4Jaj2

        Reply
  27. Fred

    To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to critcize
    “Politics is the means by which men without principles lead men without memory.”
    Voltaire [allegedly]
    That goes for all political parties across the bourgeois political spectrum except truly left, i.e. communist parties, which unfortunately no longer seem to exist in the oligarchic west.

    Reply
  28. kostas karytsiotis

    Εxcause me please, as i see it from here there is a decoying misunderstanding about the term ”Democracy”, and it is nobodys fault, what the French Revolution and the ”illumination” before that-i mean what the filosofical streams of the 16th-17th century spreaded as ”the truth” worldwide – is what weestern historians and academians taught you about the meaning of democracy , by bending the term ….. even guys like Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu ,could’t understood completely Plato or Aristotreles refferings about the descretion between ”Political Power ” (exoysia) and ” political jurisdiction” (Armodiotita) and the terms and conditions that rule any one of them , the reason was each one of the two filosophers i named were becoming out of feudarchy systems and they hadn’t anything as a frame they lived in to compare the original idea and the term they had in mind as ”democracy”……. during the Greek Revolution back in 1821 -and centuries before during the Byzantine Ages- even the smalest village was practicing with democracy as a way of governing , the same time-1821- only 7% of the British population had the right yo vote………similar to what ‘s happening to every convict -even for the smallest crime- in United States for many decades…..”think outside the box” people

    Reply

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