Culture or barbarism: commerce has not fulfilled its promises of good customs

Putin did not read Montesquieu and his neoliberal opponents read him wrong

18th century philosopherY century Montesquieu had theorized the relationship between trade and peace: “It is almost a general rule that where there are good customs, there is trade; and that where there is commerce, there are good manners. or: “The natural effect of trade is to bring about peace” [1] One could certainly suspect naivety on the part of the author of From the spirit of the laws, but it was excusable in the Age of Enlightenment. On the other hand, on the part of the political leaders of the world and of all the champions of capitalist globalization, this belief in the virtue of free trade was an ideology destined to legitimize the course of things considered natural. The return of reality is paying a high price today.

Germany, formerly under Merkel and now under Scholz, is forced to reconsider its choice of Russian gas supply and sees the “Nord Stream 2” pipeline project in question. Biden’s America is working hard to produce shale gas and radicalizing its opposition to China. While Macron’s France continues with its disastrous commitment to nuclear energy. Everywhere, the concept of energy independence is replacing that of energy sobriety, thus ignoring the sixth IPCC report which states that staying below +2°C – with greater reason below +1.5°C – it would mean that the peak of greenhouse gas emissions would be reached no later than 2025. All the experts close to the neoliberal governments promised us that the increase in the price of fossil fuels would cause a switch to renewable energy [2]. However, we are witnessing the opposite: the price signal works in reverse by encouraging oil companies to restart hydrocarbon drilling sites that had been abandoned for lack of profitability and suddenly become profitable again.

Thus, the human tragedy of the war in Ukraine is combined with a geopolitical tragicomedy about the need to radically review energy options. And all this occurs in a context where global capitalism combines social and ecological contradictions unprecedented in their scope and simultaneity, due to the depletion of labor productivity gains and the depletion of resources and biodiversity. Due to these contradictions, commodity inflation had already started a long-term upward trend, which the pandemic and the war accelerated. And neoliberal policies, through their persecution and brutality, caused the rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe, giving far-right ideas an audience and power they had not known since the end of World War II. In France, forty years of neoliberal policies, including five under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, ruined the living conditions of the working classes and consolidated the power and wealth of the rich and well-to-do classes, and favored the extreme right of the electorate.

The rise of the far right

The dossier of this issue of Possible It is therefore dedicated to the extreme right, whose growth was evident in the first round of the French presidential elections and also in Europe with, for example, Orbán’s new victory in the Hungarian legislative elections.

The dossier opens with an article by historian Michèle Riot-Sarcey who meticulously dissects Éric Zemmour’s historical falsehoods, showing that they are a copy-paste of the worst racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic writings of Drumon, Barres and Mauras. Fortunately, the serious work of historians has long since done justice to the far-right’s forgeries. But today, they allow “a segment of the population on the right and extreme right [de] straighten[r] head, happy to now have a mentor listening to his aspirations.

Robert Hirsch, in turn, reflects on Zemmour’s dramatic breakthrough by examining more specifically what Pétain’s attempted rehabilitation means. We know how wrong is the claim that the Vichy regime helped save the Jews. All this serves Zemmour in his attempt to bring together the right and the extreme right, the outcome of which is not yet known.

Samy Johsua then analyzes the articulation/opposition of the Le Pen and Zemmour projects. It should be noted “the extreme right of the political and media field.” The levees gradually burst over time as the right hardened and the left failed. That is why “Twenty years after the shock of April 21, the walls have been transformed into catwalks. »

We publish with your permission a Note from the Terrified Economists dedicated to deciphering the far-right programs presented in the campaign for the 2022 presidential elections. Le Pen and Zemmour’s programs have much in common for their “neoliberal-nationalists” and his “security obsessions”.

The file continues with Saïd Bouamama’s analysis of “the place of classes and working-class neighborhoods in the process of fascism.” The effects of this process have been established for several decades and are felt in “the physical and mental health of these classes, in their social relations, and in the available forms of expression of their social anger.” In no way does this result from any form of popular claim to authoritarianism: “it was not ‘racism from below’ that gave rise to ‘racism from above’ but fundamentally the opposite.”

The philosopher Christiane Vollaire continues this exploration to build a “field philosophy”. She denounces the colonial violence that has been imported into the metropolis, creating a “double language of republican equality.” Evidenced in particular by the police violence at the end of the Algerian War and the urbanization plans of the 1970s that segregated populations. And, today, the Global Security Act reinforces the discrimination and racialization of police operations. But, within the popular neighborhoods, the victims do not appear as victimizers, but rather fight for the recognition of this violence.

The dossier closes with an article by Gerd Wiegel on the rise of the extreme right in Germany. He shows that, after several waves of this rise, “the German extreme right joins the models that have triumphed in other countries of the European Union and benefits from the global rise of a populist and partly neo-fascist right.” The AFD, which entered the Bundestag, “represents a radical liberal politics that reflects above all the ideology of the middle classes and of the small and medium fractions of capital, which make up an important part of its electoral base.” The danger stems from the fact that this wave reflects the existence of “a vast right-wing social movement that has spread the racist positions of the AFD on the streets in particular.”

The alternative to barbarism: through culture

The “Debates” section of this issue of Possible It begins with an article by the economist Patrice Grevet that continues the research started in previous issues. It is up to him to build a post-capitalist theoretical and political alternative. To do this, he imagines a radical social-ecological bifurcation that includes profound changes in the management and financing of large and medium-sized companies. And he gives an idea of ​​what democratic planning would look like.

We continue to examine the terms of the open energy transition debate in the previous two issues of Possible. With two new additions. One by Pierre Masnière, which purports to discuss the case for a nuclear power industry that would be “quasi-green, sustainable and relatively cheap”. The other by Jacques Rigaudiat to follow up on the discussion with Philippe Quirion and Behrang Shirizadeh.

On the occasion of the publication of Jacques Bidet’s book The political ecology of ordinary people, its publisher (Éditions du Croquant) organized a webinar on January 28, 2022 to present and discuss this book and had asked Jean-Marie Harribey and Pierre Khalfa, whose texts are mentioned in the note, to lead this discussion. We publish here the answers of Jacques Bidet [3].

Gilles Rotillon reports on Attac’s book Macron: We take stock of the five-year A disastrous evaluation and a very educational book, says the author, to “provide the public with factual reference points to evaluate Macron’s action in power, and to get a fairly accurate idea of ​​what he would do if he were re-elected”.

Claude Serfati, for his part, lists the collective book coordinated by Martine Boudet African resistance to neocolonial domination. A very useful book, according to the author, because it deals with “the relations of the entire continent with the dominant countries and their large financial and industrial groups. »

Finally, we close this issue of Possible for an artistic but deeply political illustration, all in images. Jean Noviel and Daniel Rome invite us to appreciate “the raft of the Medusa of the great Géricault”. Because it is a metaphor for the collapse of the old world.

The presentation of this number began with an evocation of Montesquieu who thought that a new and friendly world would emerge from trade. He certainly did not imagine to what extent the capitalist dynamic would lack… sweetness. With Putin it is not necessary to use any euphemism: it is the shipwreck of humanity.

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