The frightful writhing convulsions of the Deep State that we are witnessing each new day – indeed, it may be said, even on an hourly basis now, and not just due to the 24-hour news cycle – are only the symptoms of much deeper and ominous causes. They are a warning to the bourgeoisie – at the international, not just national level – that its margin of manoeuvre (what Weber called “Ellebongsraum”, elbow room) is shrinking alarmingly quickly. The alarums and warning bells are there for everyone to hear. And because the room to manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie is shrinking so rapidly this has immediate and, again, terrifying consequences at the inter-national, geopolitical level. The surreal part of this coming denouement for the global bourgeoisie is that it seems to come at a time when indeed its power and global reach seem almost unlimited: but if Nero fiddled while Rome burned, it is also true that the flames of the coming conflagration will reach the temples of the nonchalant and indolent bourgeoisie much sooner than it realises.
That margin of manoeuvre (again to return to Weber, see “Politics as a Vocation”) is afforded to the bourgeoisie by the parliamentary system and, deeper down into the grassroots of society, by the party system. Thus, the first harbinger of growing social antagonism and of the loss of legitimacy of bourgeois rule – the earliest warning sign of the tsunami that is about to hit the thus-far impregnable fortress of the Deep State – is the precipitous, spectacular decline of the influence and appeal of political parties in the parliamentary system. Of course, without popular and strong political parties able to ensure the adherence of the mass of society to parliamentary institutions, it is parliaments that will collapse quite rapidly and sink without a trace in the groundswell of political conflict that will arise.
Parliaments were initially intended by the bourgeoisie as political devices to ensure the representation before the feudal Absolute Monarch of the propertied classes: remember that the initial war-cry of the bourgeoisie was “no taxation without representation”. But with the numerical and political rise of the working class from the 18th Century onwards, the bourgeoisie was forced to grant political representation to the vast majority of the population (universal suffrage) and also to allow workers to assemble in a political party. It was the rise of social-democratic workers’ parties that compelled the bourgeoisie to seek its own form of party-political representation in the shape of conservative formations seeking the political support of middle class electorates.
Bourgeois political parties were always parties of “notables”, popular figures or personalities or “leaders” who could draw the support of large numbers of the population through connections and influence. Of course, proletarian revolutionary or “opposition” parties always posed a danger to bourgeois supremacy in the parliamentary system, so a way had to be found to integrate or assimilate these opposition parties in the “parliamentary system”. And the way to do this was to force them to become “mass” or “umbrella” parties with political programs that did not embody the “partisan” interests of their members but extended their appeal to “the people” or “the nation”. Of course, the more political parties have become engulfed and mired in the parliamentary game, the more their appeal has become “national” to the point where they have entirely lost any antagonistic substance, that is to say, to the point where political parties are no longer able “to represent”, as they were meant to do initially, the conflicting and antagonistic interests of their members.
Yet this very “massification” of political parties – the fact that they have been forced to channel and adapt their antagonistic drive to the homologating strictures of parliamentary and constitutional rules set up by the bourgeoisie – has emptied their “political” function of all content and substance and reduced mass parties to the status of football teams! The real reason behind the decline of bourgeois “liberal democracy” is the very success of the bourgeois effort to reduce political parties to arms or instruments or indeed extensions of “the State”: in short, by turning into arms of the bureaucracy, of the Deep State, political parties – even and especially(!) “opposition” parties – have signed their own death decree! The respective electoral mottos of Emmanuel Macron and of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election just concluded were “Ensemble, la France” for the former and “Choisir la France!” for the latter. It would be absurdly laughable if it were not also tragic! As is amply obvious, the real antagonism that threatens to tear French and European society asunder is now hidden and farcically disguised behind besotted appeals to “unity” and “la France”!
The much-trumpeted “decline of social democracy” in Europe and around the world, which is celebrated by the haute bourgeoisie as the seal of its ultimate triumph, is in reality the beginning of the end for the bourgeoisie itself – because once it cannot channel and control by means of the parliamentary game the antagonism rampant in capitalist society, the bourgeoisie will find that it is impossible to control its own population let alone that of other national bourgeoisies, themselves in the throes of de-legitimisation and political dissolution.
Of course, the massification and dilution, the evisceration of antagonistic political parties has been achieved not just through the bureaucratic parliamentary regime established by the bourgeoise through the Deep State, but also and above all by the cultural and organisational “massification” of the body politic itself. We have said repeatedly here that “the bourgeoisie loves the mob”: and it has made monumental efforts to create a mob by turning the body politic into a shapeless mass of abulic individuals through concerted attacks on the organic composition of the working class and, to no small extent, through the brutalisation of everyday life consequent upon the denial of social services and also, last but not least, through the culture industry – the entire bizarre machinery of panis et circenses (bread and circuses) that ranges from Hollywood to show business broadly as well as advertising and marketing.
This specific form of propaganda comes naturally to the capitalist bourgeoisie: capitalism, after all, is a form of domination whereby workers “freely” alienate their living labour “in exchange for” the objectified products of their activity (“dead labour”), which the capitalist then uses “to purchase” the living labour of other workers, and so on ad infinitum. This impossible exchange involves, of course, the coaxing of workers to purchase their own products from the capitalist – something that we know as “consumerism”. And consumerism requires marketing as the main form of persuasion (recall V. Packard’s famous work “The Hidden Persuaders”). In short, the bourgeoisie is masterful in devising infinitely devious and diabolical ways of selling its peculiar brand of slavery. By the same token, this sales effort must be able to hide and disguise – indeed, to present as desirable – all the deleterious and despicable practices that debase, defile and distort human instincts and values. Thus, for instance, motor vehicles that pollute the ecosphere are sold with lakes and mountains in the background, driven on roads with no other vehicles in sight… It takes just one simple instance like this to illustrate once and for all the self-destructive suicidal bent to which global capital, the bourgeoisie, is driving humanity.
Even more than the mob, the bourgeoisie is entranced by the degree of political and social mastery and command over their populations exhibited by “Oriental” and Eurasian dynasties such as those of Imperial and now Maoist China, and those of Czarist and then Stalinist Russia. In the guise of Donald Trump, of course, this extends to Putin’s Russia, as we know. Perhaps the most odious aspect of late capitalism is the way in which it presents new and more insidious and powerful methods of political domination such as “artificial intelligence” as ineluctable aspects of human Progress, as capable of solving all human problems when in fact they are just hideous illustrations of the intolerable brutality and hubris of the bourgeoisie against which we shall either rise up or else to which we shall infallibly succumb.