On the Historical Juncture
Introduction to Discussion on the International Situation
This introduction to discussion on the international situation was delivered by Pauline Easton to a meeting of members and supporters of CPC (M-L) held in Gatineau, Quebec on July 27, 2022. It is based on the theoretical work of CPC (M-L) on the modern definitions required to make way for the renewal of the political process and the constitutional order.
Of utmost importance today is to recognize that we are living through a rare historical juncture where the Old has passed away and the New has yet to come into being. A main feature is that the productive powers of this world have developed beyond anything devised by humans in terms of politics. What does this mean and what are the consequences?
old international system came into being with WWI, the Versailles
Treaty, WWII, etc. The world order required two world wars to establish
it. International law, trade agreements, treaties, financial
institutions, the UN -- everything came into being. The period has
achievements of which the biggest is the proof that there is an
alternative to imperialism and imperialist war. The Great October
Socialist Revolution and the establishment of the USSR in 1922 gave
birth to the New in this regard.
speaking within the context of the existence of class societies, wars
are the mechanism for changing systems. And world war is unleashed when
we have a world market. The October Revolution and establishment of
Soviet Russia and subsequently the USSR in 1922, provided an
alternative in the form of anti-war governments. Because of the
development of capital trying to wipe out socialism and communism as a
system, the world saw the rise of Nazism and the fascist state as well
as Japanese militarism. The USSR stood against this. Together with the
resistance waged by the workers and peoples of the world, it showed a
way out of imperialist war.
At the conclusion of WWII, referencing crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the peace, the definitions came out of the Nuremberg International Tribunal (and similar tribunals). These instruments were given international recognition and they have significance in liberal historiography because it is claimed that the U.S. is responsible for them, when it was the Soviets who were able to provide the summation of the experience which gave rise to the definitions, especially in relation to defining aggression. Today, these are all things which are used against the peoples of the world, as in the example of U.S. claims against others of genocide, crimes against humanity, etc.
The liberal left has a tendency to refer to Nuremberg and various instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- all the things that were part of the defeat of fascism -- to put the U.S. forward as the main force in establishing these concepts, saying that they are Anglo-American, not French, not Soviet. In fact, it was the Soviet jurists who were instrumental in defining aggression and crimes against the peace, amongst others, not the Americans.
The significance lies in how this was used to detract attention from the need to unite the peoples in action to establish conditions which would provide their desire for peace, freedom and democracy with a guarantee, such as by carrying out denazification, demilitarization and bringing those who had committed crimes to justice. To achieve this, a notion and practice of complicity was developed. This goes beyond the Anglo-American conception of a secret conspiracy. Conspiracy is necessarily a secret affair while complicity merely required establishing where aggression is coming from and what various forces are doing in relation to that. It is not akin to a secret conspiracy. It is not secret and there is no need for direct contact.
of the first examples of this was provided by those countries which
supported the U.S. imperialist claim that the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (DPRK) aggressed against the Republic of Korea (ROK)
thereby proving itself an aggressor and justifying the 1950
intervention of 22 UN member nations in the war on the Korean Peninsula
under the UN flag. First the U.S. imperialists openly divided Korea at
the 38th parallel and created the ROK to undermine elections being held
nationwide by the Korean people and their leadership who had won their
liberation against the Japanese occupation. On this basis, they set up
a virulently anti-communist puppet regime in the ROK and instigated a
civil war. They engaged in countless provocations at the 38th parallel
and when the DPRK defended against these attacks they blamed it for
"invading the south" and committing aggression. The U.S. openly muddied
the definition of aggression and made other countries complicit with
them in the name of checking the spread of communist aggression.
The overall contribution coming out of Nuremberg was the definition of aggression, which included preparation and propaganda for war. Even before Nuremberg established the definition, atomic bombs were used. Within the first few years of the development of nuclear weapons in the 1940s, there developed a relationship of nuclear weapons to the U.S. state, through the Office of the President. Once the connection of nuclear weapons with the Office of the U.S. President was established permanently, there is no way that the U.S. would not be a force against the definitions established in Nuremberg. Backed by the entire university and industrial forces, it became a force of aggression.
This arrangement is at the heart of a permanent war establishment in the U.S., of what is called the civilian-military-industrial complex. All the arguments used are incidental to the fact that nuclear weapons are actively used to define aggression. They are the ultimate weapon. This is not simply because it is a weapon of mass destruction. In fact, the firebombing of Tokyo led to more deaths than did the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reason is that the nuclear bomb was initially seen as a bigger bomb. Later, anything said to threaten U.S. security was designated a weapon of mass destruction. This is the definition today used to criminalize anyone even if their crime is to use their speech in a manner the rulers declare threatens national security, as in the case of Julian Assange. The U.S., Britain, Australia, Canada and other U.S. toadies are complicit in getting him extradited to the U.S. despite his not being a U.S. citizen and not having committed any crime. On the contrary, he exercised his civil right to speak and propagate information.
As for nuclear weapons, they were used repeatedly to threaten the Soviet people, the Soviet system, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and the peoples of Europe as a whole. What is not so readily understood is that the issue is more about the Office of the U.S. President. The oath of Office of the U.S. President is not, as is widely believed, to defend the Constitution of the United States. It is to faithfully execute the Office. The second aspect of the Oath merely says the President must protect the U.S. Constitution "to the best of their ability." This can mean anything each president defines it to be according to the private interests in control of the Office. The Oath always has both aspects: one is for the whole government machinery of police powers and the other is to provide this with a constitutional legitimacy.
Prior to the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a federal police force in 1908, police powers were initially mainly state-based -- a matter which pertained to local courts and police forces. Local court rulings at the state level had control of the establishment and conduct of police powers. Today in the United States there are 17 intelligence agencies including the FBI, all part of the federal executive's police powers. They are a separate authority to that of the states, linked to the control of nuclear weapons and the permanent military establishment and bureaucracy at the federal level. They are used to define and limit all the struggles which take place whether within the U.S. or abroad. All of this and the nuclear weapons themselves are used outside of the UN mechanism.
is more than a conspiracy. It is common today at a time governments of
police powers have taken over and politics have broken down. For
instance, the different wings of the cartel that created the
presidential debates in the U.S. at the time of the Clinton presidency
kept upping the ante with the aim of winning over and connecting those
responsible for the machinery of state to the money market. Today the
speculation of what are called super PACs in elections has reached
unprecedented levels. Super PACs can raise unlimited sums of money from
corporations, unions, associations and individuals and spend unlimited
amounts to support or oppose candidates. As of August 15,
2,325 groups organized as super PACs reported total receipts
of $1,488,195,425 and total independent expenditures of $430,215,694 in
the 2021-2022 election cycle.
All of this concerns the point reached today in which elections no longer operate to sort out the contention within the ruling factions over control of the political power. What used to be political parties within a polity said to serve a public good and defend a political authority have become mafia-style cartels which are instruments of narrow private interests who now directly wield the political powers to favour their own interests. This feeds civil war scenarios domestically while internationally, once politics breaks down, we are beyond the issue of what constitutes aggression as defined at Nuremberg. We are also no longer dealing with war as politics by other means because there are no politics, just dictates to impose submission and, failing that, destruction of the productive powers. This has been developing over a long period seen in the U.S. dictate to not permit negotitions to achieve peace, as in Palestine, Syria, the DPRK, Ukraine and other conflicts. Since the creation of Israel, the division of Korea and the Korean war, the division of India and many other examples, complicity has given rise to permanent situations of no war/no peace and, today, wars of destruction of whole nations and their productive powers. At the heart of the complicity is the suggestion that the entire affair has constitutional legitimacy in the United States.
In the case of Libya, the U.S. destroyed a whole society; it no longer exists. But at the time of the U.S.-led NATO war, Obama said it was not war or even hostilities. In other words, the case of Libya shows how the problem of police power exists internationally. But more than this, in the case of Libya, when Obama said the invasion did not rise to the level of war, he was declaring a new doctrine which became known as the Obama doctrine. The Obama doctrine basically said that engaging in a war does not require a constitutional mechanism. Obama went so far as to say that the destruction of Libya did not even constitute hostility as defined by the laws of war. This also further broke the bounds of the U.S. Constitution. This doctrine included the declared right to carry out assassinations through drone warfare, use private contractors to engage in warfare under false flags of humanitarian missions, etc.
It confirms that it is not only the likes of Trump who outrightly calls for the U.S. Constitution to be trashed but that the wing of the U.S. ruling class which claims to uphold the liberal democratic institutions and safeguard constitutional order is just as keen to trash it. So too the current government of Canada is striving to concentrate police powers in the executive and make the legislatures useless, all in the name of preserving the constitutional order. The rulers in various countries which are complicit with the claim that they follow a so-called rules based international order, are concentrating more and more police powers in their executives which have been taken over by narrow private interests. They are engaged in the battle over control of all the productive powers which have developed beyond anything devised by humans in terms of politics. What they cannot force into submission, they destroy.
Rulers are dealing with contradictions that cannot be resolved internationally from the perspective of the interests of huge oligopolies which have been brought into being. The entire world is hostage to the U.S. dilemma of how to maintain the order that was brought into being following World War II that allows the U.S. to claim itself a superpower. Those countries which are upholding the UN Charter and the international rule of law established on its basis after WWII are trying to erect a block against what the U.S. is doing which comes up against the problem of complicity established by the U.S.
Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the new modus operandi became one of seeking the complicity of what are called allies. It was under Reagan, and in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, that the basis for the neo-liberal anti-social offensive was laid in the name of neo-conservatism. It was a program to restructure the state arrangements nationally to make the people pay for the crisis of the social welfare state and escalate the use of covert methods internationally. Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union under the pressure of the reactionary restructuring called perestroika and glasnost, we have seen the Anglo-American rulers and their accomplices destroy the productive powers of the most ancient peoples, including Iraq, Libya, Syria, among others. Many things have come to a head. This includes the end of the Cold War and the end of the world order of the big imperialist powers. These are two moments which are related and have their own motion. The imperialist countries that had two world wars that served to wipe out England and France as major powers are all still around, as is the contention and collusion between the U.S. and, today, not the Soviet Union but Russia, on what has always been called the German Question.
A problem the rulers face is that in the U.S. there is still an entire constitutional system in place. It is the basis for U.S. society to take the form of a republic – from 13 colonies to states to their expansion to the entire territory designated as the United States today. The period of establishing nation-states which took place coming out of the English Civil War in the 1660s, was also a period of international crisis which brought with it the beginnings of the creation of the United States, accompanied by various wars. The conception of sovereignty, whole and undivided, developed both in France and England, initially in the name of divine right as seen in the establishment of the Church of England and the takeover of church lands under Henry VIII and then Elizabeth I in England and the declaration by Louis XIV, l'État c'est moi! in France. The basis of the ultimate decision came out of the regicide of Charles I in the theory put forward by Thomas Hobbes in his famous book Leviathan which expounds his Covenant Thesis -- the theory of a fictional person of state and a public authority and constitutional order emanating from that. It deals with two interlinked issues which arose out of the civil war and provides the basis for the law of nations also referred to as the law of war.
In accord with this, autonomous nation-states can have peaceful relations with others or go to war. War is central in all the matters which pertain to relations between countries recognized as nation-states established on the European model no matter whether the form of government be monarchic or republican. The wars which were taking place during a 60-year formative period in China, Persia, the Americas and Europe were on par with what later took place known as world wars. That formative period was another rare conjuncture which also involved environmental crisis. Nation-states and the theory of nation-states and their link to military capability and, more importantly, the development of the productive powers, became a new whole. An essential part of the inquiry into those formative years also requires examining the influence of proletarian revolution, especially from 1848 at the time the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels was published with its summation of the entire period, to today.
As for the theory of representation, how people relate to the state, the problem is not just that the state is machinery for coercion but that it involves membership in the polity. The definition of membership provided by Hobbes is basically what we have today. It is going through death throes but it will not be finished until modern definitions are given rise to on the basis of mass democratic mobilization and methods.
The main obstacle to the renewal required today is that the state deprives people of an outlook. This has been the case since the 1600s and is a matter that must be addressed.
A conjuncture is a turning point, a point at which everything comes to a head. If history is not paid attention to, we will not recognize that it is a particular, rare type of conjuncture. For instance, in the 1970s, we said that revolution was the main trend. Either revolution would impede imperialist war or imperialist war would give rise to revolution. Everything would be settled. But this is not what happened. With the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the flow of revolution turned into an ebb. Revolution went into retreat. The initiative went out of the hands of the working class and people and into the hands of the reactionary bourgeoisie and its anti-social offensive which prioritized the restructuring of the state to favour narrow private interests. Counter-revolution set in.
Engels hinted at this after the death of Marx, at a time when the German social-democrats were getting elected to governments. He spoke to elections pointing out that the attainment of universal suffrage was a measure of the maturity of the working class. He said movements will have to be crushed within the first two decades of the 1900s, that there would be a world war to crush these movements. His argument did not concern itself with when war would occur but rather that only the proletariat could build a new society.
It is not uncommon to see people take arguments from the past and misuse them in the present to speculate about what will occur. From all the various historical periods, important conceptions and movements are used as reference points. That is ok. The arguments per se may not be wrong, but they miss the point. They are End of History type of arguments. End of History arguments claim that ideology evolves -- the ideology of capitalism or socialism, or any other, evolves like a species evolves, with a beginning, a middle and an end. There is no proof of this since ideas and ideologies have a material basis. They are not a matter of spinning ideas out of ideas. The way the author of the End of History thesis Francis Fukuyama put it, was to say that what was evolving was the form of government. He was not talking about beliefs, which is to say what is in the heads of people, which is often confused with ideology. Fukuyama said ideological form had reached its final form.
Forms have to do with what happens between individuals and the collective, how representation takes place, how governing takes shape. These are forms, not content. When people talk about crimes against humanity and beliefs, ideological form addresses how things are sorted out and how the brain cognizes these relationships. Discussion of views is important but what is coming to a head is the form of representation. This form based on Covenant Thesis allows that a collective, a polity, can have powers over individuals. This is the context in which Fukuyama posits the end form of that government.
End of History says there is no other way except through that form of government to sort these issues out. That is false. Individuals and collectives and the general structure of society and international institutions and organizations all exist. What the Anglo-American rulers and their accomplices are asking for is complicity with this final form and it is the recognition of this that the disinformation of the state blocks. All movements for justice, peace and democracy are to focus on reshuffling the constitutional order, not to having fidelity to the relations between humans and humans and humans and nature and what they reveal, which is the need for the people to empower themselves by making the claims which they must. They must speak in their own name, not hand over their authority to others who represent a fictional person of state who rules above them.
How to develop one's own defence organizations? What is their basis of authority? Answering such questions is important because private interests say they themselves constitute the public authority because it is constitutional. This does not deal with the content of a public authority. The way society is constituted is form.
The productive powers are huge at this time and they are created by human beings who are classed as subservient to those productive powers. But it is their work, the work of human beings. The working class is part and parcel of those productive powers but forced into a subservient relation because the ruling class claims ownership. The productive powers created by humans along with the rapid development of science and technology, are the source of the relations. There is no society outside of them. These powers have exceeded the limits of any forms. The weapon of choice to destroy the productive power is nuclear weapons.
Going back 10,000 years or so, human beings have been developing their own means of subsistence, agriculture, domestication of animals, the beginnings of cities, technology and so on. This gives rise to the creation of human need and this is what drives everything else. The revolution which took place in that historical conjuncture was more gigantic than more recent revolutions. That was the conjuncture we all come out of.
In the U.S. election which culminated with Trump being brought to power, Trump said Clinton was against global warming and he was against using nuclear weapons. These are two parts of the human productive powers which have grown so powerful, they are beyond the control of the productive forces. According to geologists we are living in a period of Anthropocene, where humans exist as a geological force of nature. Climate exists as a human force. There is recognition that the human productive forces have created this situation. Models for global warming came from the development of nuclear weapons and predictions of nuclear winter. Suffice it to say that a long history of human development is coming to a head. We could have another ice age, or the like.
A problem for rulers is that they think they can predict who will represent them but even with 17 intelligence agencies, they no longer can. Hilary Clinton found this out when she lost the election to Trump. In that election, Clinton said the purpose of an election is for millions of people to stake out a side. So too today with the factional contention going on in the United States, that end form of representational state and its political process can no longer make predictions about how things will turn out. People are simply asked to stake out a side. All of it underscores that all the forms which provided equilibrium, and a certain stability and predictability on that basis, no longer function. Nothing that is in place can make predictions and this is one of the reasons governments of police powers kick in -- to preserve the state.
Rulers need to make predictions. For instance, how to deal with developments in China, where hundreds of millions of people -- the size of the population of the U.S., Canada and Mexico combined -- are moving from the countryside to cities and being proletarianized. The inability of the U.S. imperalists and their accomplices, including Canada, to analyze by taking into account the specificities of the historical juncture and the ramifications of the technical and scientific revolution, leads the U.S., Britain and others to become ever more desperate in their striving to control the productive powers which have escaped their grasp. What they cannot control they then seek to destroy, creating the extremely dangerous and volatile situation we experience today.
The historical juncture engenders different possibilities. One is that societies can collapse. There is also the recognition of societies established beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois right or civil society. It is possible to have "from each according to ability to each according to need."
We need a way to calculate human need and meet it. There is no political process for this at this time. The rulers talk about preferences, not about interests, which is why the political process and institutions do not allow for predictions and terrorists are doing things the rulers cannot predict. They are outside of their civilization. The Bush argument that you are either with us or with the terrorists is about those trying to make calculations about the whole world order. They cannot make predictions because they are not in tune with the motion of society at this rare historical juncture that has to be dealt with. The mechanism of the U.S. and NATO powers to deal with this situation is war -- civil war at home and world war.
This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 9 - September, 2022
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