‘English Fascism, when it arrives, is likely to be of a sedate and subtle kind (presumably, at any rate at first, it won’t be called Fascism). It is quite easy to imagine a middle-class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist Party. There is no chance of saving England from Fascism unless we can bring an effective Socialist party into existence. It will have to be a party with genuinely revolutionary intentions, and it will have to be numerically strong enough to act. If we do not get it, then Fascism is coming; probably a slimy Anglicised form of Fascism, with cultured policemen instead of Nazi gorillas and the lion and the unicorn instead of the swastika.’
— George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
Table of Contents
- The Return of Fascism
- Eternal Fascism
- The Fascist State and Human Rights
- Fascism and the Decay of Capitalism
- The Psychological Structure of Fascism
- From Kitsch to Woke: The Aesthetics of Totalitarianism
- Fascism, Neoliberalism and the Left
- The Camp as Biopolitical Paradigm of the State
- On Humanity in Dark Times
7. Fascism, Neoliberalism and the Left
In March 1944, when he was a war correspondent in Paris, George Orwell, who had just completed the manuscript for Animal Farm, his allegory of the Russian Revolution, published a short article in the Tribune, a left-wing British newspaper to which he contributed a column between 1943 and 1947. This instalment was published under the title ‘What is Fascism?’ Beginning, much as I have in this series of articles, with the observation that the accusation of ‘fascist’ or ‘fascism’ has been levelled at everyone from conservatives, nationalists and Catholics to socialists, communists and Trotskyists — whether supporters of the war or pacifists — Orwell argued that, in addition to being a term of abuse meaning ‘something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working class’, ‘fascism is also a political and economic system. Why, then’, he asks, ‘cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it?’ Orwell goes on to say that the answer to this question would be too long for his short column, and instead offers the gnomic statement that:
‘It is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, not the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make.’
Orwell, unusually, was clearly making concessions to the politics of his newspaper, while at the same time — as was very much his custom — making plain his many criticisms of socialism, which he had just explored more fully and at greater length in his novel. But he was also indicating something else, and that is the overlaps and collusions between fascism, socialism and the political forces of capitalism, including conservatives and, after the war, neoliberals.
Seventy-eight years later, little has changed, and what has has changed for the worse. It is not only the sanctimony and puritanism of the Left that the acolytes and foot-soldiers of woke have inherited, but also its political naivety. This has never been more apparent, or been demonstrated to more disastrous effect, than over the past two years, during which the Left, not only in the UK but across the former neoliberal democracies of the West, has been the loudest advocate of the global biosecurity state. In this it has repeated the historical failure of the Left to stop the rise and coming to power of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Worse, what was then a failure that bore all the hallmarks of Leftist politics — above all the incessant infighting between anarchists, socialists and communists in the face of fascist unity with capitalists and conservatives — has today become open collusion. Indeed, the willing collaboration of the Left with the violent implementation of the programmes and regulations of global biosecurity by a merger of state and corporate power forces us to address the historical relation between fascism and the Left. In this article, I’m going to look at this relation, how it was reconfigured by Western capitalism to formulate the ideological hegemony of neoliberalism, and ask what it can tell us about the function of the Left in the new political paradigm of the West today.
1. Socialism and Fascism
We shouldn’t forget that, before they came to power, both Italian fascism and German National Socialism flirted, if only in name, with socialist ideas, particularly about the organisation of the economy. This was done largely in order to appeal to Italian and German workers facing immense economic hardship and exploitation by capitalist landowners and industrialists after the Great War; to gain access to the organisational power of trades unions over the mass of industrial workers; and in a largely failed attempt to draw workers away from the strong communist parties in these two countries. And although, once these fascist movements formed a government, this flirtation rapidly turned to violent anti-socialist policies in fascist states across Europe, many workers continued to think of fascism as a form of socialism right up to the point when their trades unions were disbanded, their social and political organisations outlawed, and their party leaders arrested, imprisoned, tortured and murdered.
Here I take just one example from Richard Evans’ The Coming of the Third Reich, the first volume in his trilogy, in which he follows how the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) came to power in Germany in March 1933, whereupon it set about destroying all opposition, not only in the Reichstag but also in the strong labour movement. To this end, the ‘socialist’ dimension of National Socialist ideology, which resided in little more than its name, was cynically used by the NSDAP Government to subordinate unions and workers to its rule. After forming a coalition government with the conservative and nationalist German National People’s Party, the Law to Remedy the Distress of People and State, which granted Adolf Hitler dictatorial powers, was voted for by every party in the Reichstag except the Social Democrats and the Communist Party — the latter of which had been banned the month before. Hitler then turned his attention to the trade unions. In April, the Government concluded an agreement with the Liberal and Christian unions to make May Day — traditionally the occasion for the demonstration of the labour movement’s numbers — into a public holiday. In return, the trades unions agreed that it would now be rebranded as the ‘Day of National Labour’, symbolising the union of nationalism and socialism.
On the day itself, however, trades unions were decorated in black, white and red, the former national colours of Imperial Germany, and some workers marched under the sign of the swastika. Many of these had been threatened by their unions with dismissal for non-compliance; but forced or willing, this union of nationalism and socialism was short-lived. The very next day, on 2 May, 1933, SA and SS stormtroopers occupied the offices of every Social Democrat trade union, took over their newspapers, periodicals, banks and assets, and arrested leading union officials. These were taken into ‘protective custody’ — it was claimed for their own safety from the ‘righteous wrath’ of the German people — in Germany’s new concentration camps. In response, the Christian trade unions, like their Church before them, placed themselves unreservedly under the new Government. In July 1933, the Social Democrats joined the Communists — whose combined votes (221 seats in the Reichstag) had exceeded that of the Nazis (196 seats) in the last free elections held in November 1932 — on the list of political parties banned by the Government.
For communists, however, it didn’t take until a government was formed in Italy, Germany or Spain to know that fascism was both politically and economically opposed to socialism; but the blame for their success could not all be laid on the ability of capitalists to maintain their grip on the economies of these countries through the hyperinflation of the 1920s and the economic depression of the 1930s. In 1923, the exchange rate in Germany would plummet to an all-time low of 1 US dollar to 4.2 trillion German marks. That June, Clara Zetkin, a representative of the German Communist Party in the Reichstag between 1920 and 1933, speaking at the Third Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, defined fascism not as the revenge of the European bourgeoisie against the militant uprising of the proletariat, but as ‘punishment because the proletariat has not carried and driven forward the revolution that began in Russia’. For Zetkin, fascism was a result of reformist socialism, which she argued had caused both workers and revolutionary intellectuals to lose faith in socialism and its capacity to change the world, and instead to place their faith in fascism and the ability of the fascist state to remake society.
In the terms I discussed in section 5 on the psychological structure of fascism, the forces of attraction exercised by the new imperious elements of Italian, German and Spanish society — specifically, the absolute authority of the figure of the fascist Leader, the military model of social and political order fascism imposed, and the religious appeal of fascist dogma and ritual practices — were able to persuade those immiserated by the crisis in capitalism between the two World Wars to align themselves with reconstituting homogeneous society, rather than joining its subversive heterogeneous elements to overthrow the capitalist infrastructure that was the cause of their immiseration. Fascism — and this is why it had the support of capitalists — got the rebellious workers and peasants back into the factories and fields.
Ninety years later, the same lie is being peddled, with those opposed to the totalitarianism of the biosecurity state from a libertarian position denouncing it as a form of communism, while themselves being denounced in turn by the propagandists of the biosecurity state, and particularly those on the Left, as ‘far-right extremists’ for questioning the imposition of its totalitarian programmes. Much of the responsibility for such political naivety comes from forty years of neoliberalism, according to which the expansion of the powers of the state is always a product of the Left, while the Right is equally naively associated with its dismantling. As a result, the Left needed little encouragment to believe that social distancing, the belated declaration of a state of emergency, mandatory masking, lockdown restrictions, state-funded furlough, contact tracing, free testing, the collaboration between public and private sectors in the race to find a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’, and even the imposition of ‘vaccine’ passports, were all forced on reluctant libertarian governments in the pockets of a ruling class only concerned about their profits by the righteous anger of the people — for whom the corporate media were, all of a sudden, speaking. But if there was some justification for the confusion of European workers in the 1930s when confronted by the alliance of fascism and capitalism, there is none today. On such lies have successive neoliberal governments since the 1980s deprived the welfare state of investment and privatised its industries and services; and the coronavirus ‘crisis’ has been no different, with the UK Government overseeing a massive escalation in the outsourcing of the duties and jurisdiction of the state to the private sector under the cover of lockdown. But one would have hoped that the last two years, which has overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in modern history, would have convinced workers in Europe and the West about the economic forces driving the implementation of the global biosecurity state, and they’re neither socialist nor communist.
It’s from this historical perspective that I want to challenge the neoliberal claim that, historically, fascism was a product of socialism, and the corresponding claim, which derives from it, that the authoritarianism of the global biosecurity state being constructed today represents a communist coup engineered by, or at least modelled on, the People’s Republic of China. The second claim is easier to refute. As I write, China has the strictest and most brutally imposed lockdown of any country in the world, effectively confining around 25 million people to house arrest for over a month; and the Social Credit system into which we are being led in the West by the implementation of Universal Digitial Identity and Central Bank Digital Currency is undoubtedly based on the Chinese model. Yet the claim that the global biosecurity state is a form of communism, despite being widely repeated by libertarians and conservatives alike, does little to illuminate the circumstances of our present. On the contrary, as the corporate and central bank CEOs sitting on the boards of the unelected organisations of global governance that have assumed such authority over our lives in the past two years should clearly demonstrate, these forces are capitalist through and through. And their intention, far from overseeing a revolution into the triumph of international communism, is to create a global biosecurity state ruled by an unelected technocracy composed of state and corporate representatives: a properly totalitarian world the like of which we have never seen before.
But if the second claim is relatively easily dismissed as politically and economically unsupported, the first claim still needs answering, not only as a question of historical record but in order to show why and how fascism has returned to our politics, laws and cultures today in response to the threat to the international economic order. Unlike in the 1930s, however, that threat does not come from international communism but, as it also did in the 1930s, from the crisis in global capitalism which, as I discussed in section 4, started in September 2019, and which threatens the entire financial system. Indeed, it is because of the almost total lack of a political movement with the ability or indeed desire to propose a socialist alternative to the periodic and worsening crises of finance capitalism that fascism has returned today with such rapidity, ease and lack of organised opposition. If fascism, as Zetkin argued in 1923, was the failure of socialism to ‘carry forward the revolution’ and realise the ‘genuinely revolutionary intentions’ that Orwell, in 1944, identified as the only thing that could avert the return of fascism, what role has the Left played in its covert and disguised return today, when revolution has long been abandoned as a model of change, and self-identifying socialists are reduced to policing the boundaries of identity politics? To answer this question, we have to return to how socialism, despite the history of their violent opposition to each other, first came to be identified with fascism.
2. The Rise of Neoliberalism
As soon as fascism began to win power in Europe in the 1920s, the capitalists who immediately recognised that it could be used to crush the threat of communism began loudly to deny that fascism had anything to do with capitalism while simultaneously cutting deals with its leaders in parliament and board room. Unfortunately for the workers, when the communists were off the streets and the socialists banned from parliament, there was no-one left to oppose the fascists, and the capitalists had enabled a more authoritarian and eventually totalitarian society than even they had reckoned on. When the Second World War had been won, therefore, and fascism appeared defeated, the ideologues of capitalism had to win the moral high ground for its defeat. This was difficult, as before three-quarters of a century of Hollywood movies indoctrinated everyone into believing otherwise, everybody knew that it was the USSR, not the USA, that had defeated Nazism. So instead they came up with a plan to discredit socialism. This wasn’t too hard, as even the victory of the Red Army hadn’t wiped away the memory of Stalin’s purges or his short-lived alliance with Hitler. And whether the other side was called fascism or communism, the Cold War soon drew a dividing line between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc in Europe. But neither had the unemployment and suffering global capitalism had caused between the two World Wars been entirely forgotten; and not only in the UK but in France, Italy and across Western Europe, socialism was making a return. Something had to be done, and the solution, extraordinary as it seemed at the time, was to equate socialism with fascism.
One of the strongest exponents of this argument was Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist who in 1931 had moved to England, where he taught at the London School of Economics and wrote The Road to Serfdom. Published in 1944 in both the UK and the USA, this book went on to become something of a Das Kapital for the ideologues of what came to be called ‘neoliberalism’. In broad terms, this means the privatisation of state-owned industry and services; fiscal austerity in the form of decreased government employment and spending on services; deregulation of financial and labour markets; and globalisation of trade through decreased tariffs on imports and a global division of labour. Acolytes of Hayek included Milton Friedman, the most influential economist of the second half of the Twentieth Century and one of the earliest theorists of neoliberalism; Augusto Pinochet, the President of Chile between 1973 and 1990, under whose brutal military dictatorship the neoliberal project was first implemented by students of Friedman (the so-called ‘Chicago Boys’); José Martínez de Hoz, the Minister of Economy in the first years of the Argentine military junta between 1976 and 1981, when the first neoliberal reforms of the economy of Argentina were implemented; Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the UK between 1979 and 1990 who dismantled Britain’s industrial infrastructure and turned London into the financial capital of the world; Ronald Reagan, the President of the USA between 1981 and 1989 who oversaw the rise and global domination of the finance industry over commodity production; and Alan Greenspan, the chair of the US Federal Reserve between 1987 and 2006 whose monetary policies were responsible for the dot-com stock-market bubble of the late 1990s and the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-2010. So although it would be adapted when applied to the advanced capitalist economies of Western nation states, neoliberalism was first implemented within the framework of military dictatorships installed by political coups backed by Western governments and international corporations against democratically elected governments. In many aspects, therefore, the rise and colonisation of global markets by neoliberalism in the 1970s and 1980s repeated the rise and coming to power of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s; and to make the justification for its eventual hegemony required a lot of historical revisonism. That’s where Hayek was so useful to the ideologues of neoliberalism.
A political manifesto rather than a work of economic theory, The Road to Serfdom provided Western governments with the historical and economic arguments to align the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, their former World War Two ally, with German National Socialism — which the former had done more to defeat than all the Western nations put together — and in doing so to wipe clean the historical record of the West’s collusion with fascism right up to the moment when it threatened its monopoly over the political economy of Europe and its global markets. One of the sticky questions the West’s historical collusion with fascism raised, and which Hayek’s book served to silence, is whether fascist governments were so violently opposed to socialism because fascism, politically, was the reaction of capitalism to the threat socialism posed to its hegemony. A more pertinent question for the purposes of this article, however, is why — if fascism, to the contrary, was opposed to capitalism — capitalist states had failed to oppose those fascist states militarily until September 1939, and capitalists within those states had financially supported fascist movements and governments long before that. This question applies not only to the two decades leading up to the Second World War, when the UK, France and the USA remained resolutely neutral in the face of fascist political coups and military invasions, but also afterwards, financially supporting fascist dictatorships in Spain and Portugal for three more decades. This contrasts with the willingness of the US to spend $9 trillion on a Cold War with international communism that spilled over into military invasion across the globe, most violently in Korea and Vietnam, which it was happy to reduce to near ruins.
Like the West’s long history of engineered coups and military invasions against socialist governments and support for military dictatorship in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, this embrace of Portugal and Spain speaks of an alliance of capitalism with fascism against socialism, rather than a hidden identity between the latter two. While still under Franco, who only came to power in 1939 with the military aid of Mussolini and Hitler, and ruled an authoritarian one-party dictatorship until 1975, Spain was welcomed by the US, the UK and other Western allies into the United Nations in 1955. While Portugal, also an authoritarian one-party dictatorship from 1933 until 1974, had been a founder member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1949, just four years after the supposed defeat of fascism, was voted into the UN at the same time as Spain, and both countries joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1961. The logical and historical answer, therefore, to the question of why capitalism supported fascism is that — far from being a form of socialism, as the acolytes of Hayek claim — fascism, as I have been arguing in this series of articles, was and still is at the heart of the political economy of capitalism — what I have been calling the axe blade it wields in times of crisis, when the political, juridical and ideological fasces bound together by its authority threatens to unravel.
Ignoring this history of the structural bond between capitalism and fascism, which continues to this day, Hayek’s argument in The Road to Serfdom is that, since all centralised planning and organisation of the economy by the state requires a totalitarian system of administrative coercion to impose it, socialism is a stage on the road to fascism. Communism and fascism, according to this economic analysis, are different sides of the same coin, variants of totalitarianism, and only capitalism can guarantee the freedom of the individual. Besides the ongoing evidence of capitalism’s long and unparalleled history of oppression and exploitation not only of individuals and nations but of entire races and classes, the fundamental flaw in Hayek’s argument is that the ‘free market’ to which ideologues of capitalism point as the alternative to the centralised planning of the economy and the social and political tyranny to which it supposedly leads is an almost entirely fictional construct of neoliberalism. If a free market ever existed, it was in a small town in Northern Europe during the merchant capitalism of the Seventeenth Century, and it didn’t last for long. But for Hayek, writing in 1944, to describe the monopoly capitalism of the imperialist nations of his own time after a century of globalisation as a ‘free market’ is historically unsupportable, to put it politely.
Still less does such freedom apply to the finance capitalism of today. Perhaps the most powerful organisations of global governance in the Twenty-first Century are the financial institutions that set monetary policy — that is, interest rates and the supply of money in circulation — which, as we are seeing in the current rise in inflation in the UK, determine the fiscal policy — taxation and spending — of national governments. To call this a ‘free market’ structurally incapable of producing a totalitarian political system has little descriptive purchase on the neoliberalism of the past forty years, which, to the contrary, has created international corporations with monopolies not just over commodity markets but also over governments and financial institutions. It has none at all on the response of central banks, national governments and international corporations to the global financial crisis of the past two years that resulted in the lockdown of the global economy and the ongoing construction of the global biosecurity state which, by any measure, is totalitarian in conception, intention and function.
Indeed, many of Hayek’s warnings, in The Road to Serfdom, of the effects of the totalitarianism to which centralised economic planning supposedly leads uncannily describe the reality of the global biosecurity state today. For example, he writes that centralised planning has an ‘increasing tendency to rely on administrative coercion and discrimination . . . and to resort to direct state controls or to the creation of monopolistic institutions’; and that ‘the most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people’. All of these — government coercion, legislated discrimination, state control, corporate monopoly and psychological manipulation of peoples — will be familiar to anyone who has lived under some version of the biosecurity state for the past two years.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the global technocracy intent on reducing us to the digital serfdom of Universal Digital Identity, Central Bank Digital Currency and Social Credit is either communist or socialist. Rather, just as happened a century ago, a decaying capitalism undergoing its latest global financial crisis has once again produced a fascist superstructure to give reality to its illusions. If the roughly $10 trillion printed by the central banks of the US and EU since September 2019 has no value outside the financial system of credit in which they circulate — and which they have been magicked into existence to uphold — at least the jackboot of the cop forcing us to obey the governments relying on those illusions for its authority can be real. Only this time, the technological capabilities and advances of a hundred years are producing a totalitarianism far more total than anything manufactured by historical fascism. Whether it’s a COVID-19 tablet carrying a microchip that registers compliance with vaccine mandates or an app that tracks an individual’s carbon footprint to monitor and control consumption — both of which were announced at this year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum — the global biosecurity state is the dream of fascism awakened to the reality of the present.
But if fascism, historically, was the response of capitalism to the growing threat of a working-class movement during the protracted financial crisis between the two World Wars, why has it returned today, when such a movement doesn’t exist in the UK, or indeed anywhere in the former neoliberal democracies of the West? As I discussed in the fourth of this series of articles, what the global corporate technocracy calls ‘stakeholder capitalism’ is fairly open about its intensions to reduce the salaries of the workers in the Western world to something like the level to which various forms of capitalism have raised that of the workers in the rest of the world over the past 40 years — and specifically in the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. And taking a leaf out of the Israel Defense Forces’ guide to international relations, the global biosecurity state has got its retaliation in first by effectively removing the political, juridical and cultural structures within which such a threat to its totalitarian rule might form. I refer, once again, to the warning issued by the Bank of International Settlements in June 2019, that such a threat to the ‘international economic order’ was already forming after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009, and that its influence on the future ‘will clearly be a force to contend with in the years to come’.
But isn’t there a difference between what Hayek meant by the centralised planning of the economy by the governments of nation states and the economic interventions in the economy by the world’s central banks, as well as by immensely powerful financial institutions like BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street Global Advisor? Between them, these three international corporate asset managers control $22 trillion in assets and on average hold more than 20 per cent of shares in the 500 largest companies on the US stock exchange. This gives them something comparable to state authority over the corporations accounting for the bulk of economic activity in the world. Indeed, in 2020, after the US Federal Reserve enlisted BlackRock to prop up the entire corporate bond market, the Director of the Division of Investment Management at the US Securities and Exchange Commission called the multinational investment management corporation a ‘fourth branch of government’. This is a long way from Hayek’s description of a ‘free market’ as the defender and foundation of a free society; so let’s have a look at his argument in more detail, and see if it can tell us anything about those overlaps and collusions between capitalism, fascism and socialism to which Orwell alluded in the same year The Road to Serfdom was published.
3. The Road to Serfdom
Hayek’s argument for equating socialism with fascism and, conversely, capitalism with freedom rests on an account of Western civilisation that would not look out of place today on the website of the World Economic Forum, and which, like the idea of a ‘free market’, is a product of the ideology of capitalism, and in particular the neoliberal account of history he did so much to popularise. This begins, inevitably, with the European Renaissance and proceeds, by leaps and bounds, through the emergence of market capitalism in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries to the great expansion of Western civilisation into the New World. In this history, the British Empire, unsurprisingly, takes pride of place, graciously exporting the concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘individualism’ to its colonies before handing over the baton of ‘democracy’ to the USA in the Twentieth Century. What this four-hundred years of history demonstrated, according to Hayek, is that economic freedom is the foundation of political freedom. Presumably he meant the political freedom of those who profited from this economic freedom, because he fails to mention the 300 years of the slave trade on which globalisation was founded beyond what Hayek calls ‘the discovery of some very dark spots in society’. Equally, European colonialism and the economic subjugation of entire continents by globalisation are dismissed as necessary evils to the gradual increase of wealth that economic freedom brought about, at least for those with access to it. And the semi-slavery to which the industrial revolution reduced generations of workers apparently led, by the beginning of the Twentieth Century, to the working man — at least in the Western World — having acquired what Hayek describes as ‘a degree of material comfort, security and personal independence which a hundred years before had seemed scarcely possible’.
Although Orwell had read and reviewed The Road to Serfdom, Hayek, on the evidence of this statement, had not read The Road to Wigan Pier, which had been published only a few years earlier in 1937, and whose arguments for socialism Hayek was intent on dismissing. Despite being one of England’s most respected economists throughout the 1930s, Hayek also appears to have forgotten the Great Depression which put 3.5 million British workers out of work, pushed unemployment to 70 per cent in some areas, and from which the UK only fully emerged when the Government moved to a centrally-planned war economy in 1939. In his eagerness to depict the totalitarianism to which the socialist road will supposedly lead anyone who steps onto it, Hayek had not stopped to look around him at where the capitalist road had taken the workers of the West in the past decade, and indeed those of the entire world over the past four hundred years. This isn’t surprising, because for Hayek, as for all the ideologues of neoliberalism, the subject of history is the universal man of the Renaissance, the rational man of the Enlightenment, and above all the economic man of Modernity whose buying and selling constitutes the invisible hand of the market — an abstraction, in other words, without class, without race, without nation, and therefore without any referent in the material world of unequal and exploitative economic relations.
According to Hayek, however, this triumphant history of the rise and apotheosis of Western civilisation came to an abrupt decline with the unification of Germany in 1871, at which point German ideas, he says, replaced English ones in the intellectual leadership of the West. And those ideas, which Hayek traces back to the usual suspects of Marx and Hegel, were socialist. Even though, in the 73 years between unification and the publication of Hayek’s book, Germany spent 47 of them under the Second Reich and 11 under the Third Reich, with only the 15 years of the Weimar Republic separating them, he nonetheless asserts that the catastrophe of the Second World War into which Hitler had drawn Western civilisation is entirely attributable to the intellectual and political influence of German socialists. Even accounting for the liberal intellectual’s self-regard for the power of ideas over the material forces of history, what Hayek fails to mention in his potted history — what he doesn’t account for in his demonisation of socialism — is the Great War of 1914-1918. Even more than the slave trade, colonialism and the industrial revolution — all of which have been dismissed by the ideologues of capitalism as the unfortunate but necessary evils of progress — the Great War genuinely did cause the West to question its motives and trajectory. Genocide could be tolerated when it was inflicted on other races, other countries and other classes; but when the horrors of imperialism were visited on the palaces, governments and banks of Europe, even the leaders of Western civilisation had to pause for breath before returning to the monopoly capitalism that had driven the most powerful nations in the world to self slaughter.
They had to wait a while, as the period between the two World Wars exposed every lie about capitalism and freedom, with the hyperinflation of the early 1920s impoverishing not just Germany and Italy but also Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Union; the stock market crash of 1929 laying bare the dangers of globalisation; and the Great Depression of the 1930s inflicting unemployment, homelessness and starvation on millions of workers who had never purchased a share in a company. Rather than the pernicious influence of German ideas, it was this protracted financial crisis in capitalism, which Hayek again fails to mention, that created the collective will to consider an alternative economic model by which to run the world, with some form of socialism being the forerunner. And it was this that so threatened the ideologues of capitalism who emerged from the Second World War in two decades having to confront the challenge of international communism.
And what they came up with in its defence, it could be said, is Hayek and his fairytale account not only of the history of capitalism and the benefits of Western civilisation, but also of the economic, political and ideological causes of its decline. His account, however, isn’t merely factually inaccurate and, even at the time, outdated in its idealist model of history, it is intellectually fraudulent; and it is on its foundation of lies that the neoliberal defence of the unparalleled and ongoing violence of capitalism has been erected. To understand this, I want to turn briefly to Hayek’s economic arguments against socialism, which did so much to avert the West’s eyes from the history of capitalism’s culpability for slavery, colonialism, unending wars, political oppression, economic exploitation, social inequality, unemployment, poverty, homelessness and starvation, all of which continue today.
Hayek began by arguing that socialism is what he calls a ‘species’ of collectivism, by which he means all planned economies. It’s an odd metaphor, which turns the economy into a biological process with one outcome, this being the poisoned fruit of albeit good intentions. This allows Hayek to argue that, although the goals of socialism may be shared by liberals — among whom he includes himself — his argument against socialism turns on the means it advocates to achieve them. These, he claims, have been used by both fascist and communist states to privilege an elite, whether that’s defined racially or politically. However, contrary to what Hayek asserts, the centralised command economy of the Soviet Union, the corporatism and later directed economy of fascist Italy and the mixed war economy of Nazi Germany were very far from being the same. In asserting their equivalance, moreover, Hayek turns socialism — which can embrace the economic policies of the Nordic model employed in Scandinavian countries since the 1930s (social corporatism, collective contract bargaining, mass unionisation and state ownership of industries and services), the post-war British welfare state, and even European social democracy — into a fixed, monolithic and mechanical system that produces, sooner or later, one product, rather than seeing it as a set of principles or values in whose achievement a planned economy is the primary but not the only means. In this Hayek displays the mechanistic view of history shared by most economists, including many socialist economists, but which is no less reductive for that.
Not only that, but having asserted that, because of its use of economic planning as a means to achieve its ends, all socialism must lead to totalitarianism, Hayek then undermines this mechanistic model by arguing that not all planning is bad. According to him, there is a good type of planning, which he calls ‘planning for competition’ rather than against it. This new distinction rests on Hayek’s unexamined anthropological assumption that the best way to co-ordinate the actions of individual humans is through competition, to which capitalist ideology has reduced all human motivations. However, while Hayek goes some way to explaining why a society planned for competition creates greater wealth for capitalists, he doesn’t explain why it should produce a freer society than one planned for equality. Instead, by relying on benificent governments and the rule of law to protect society from the corporate monopolies that the unequal acquisition of wealth has produced far more surely than planned economies have produced totalitarian governments, Hayek replaces the ideal government on which a socialist society, according to him, depends to avoid despotism with an equally ideal capitalist society. He even offers the unfortunate prediction that ‘a state which allows such enormous aggregations of power to grow up cannot afford to let this power rest entirely in private control’.
The last two years, in which the rule of law has been jettisoned by neoliberal governments imposing the regulations and programmes of the global biosecurity state, have provided a more accurate demonstration of the relationship between the wealth of corporations, the powers of the state and the freedom of populations. Indeed, when Hayek defines freedom as the freedom to ‘buy and sell’, it’s clear that his primary concern is with the freedom of the capitalist, who constitutes a tiny percentage of the population even in the West today, and which history has shown care nothing about the freedom of workers — except that they should have as little of it as possible. But when Hayek offers the opinion that every worker should be free to enter into any trade on equal terms, that the law should recognise the worker’s freedom of contract with his or her employer, and that such a contract should compensate the worker for damage to his or her health from the conditions of their work, it becomes clear that the halls of academe from which Hayek viewed the world had cushioned him from the realities of class, labour and the relations of production within which the workers of capitalist economies are employed and unemployed. To call these relations ‘free’ turns his economics into an apologia for centuries of exploitation, poverty and suffering, which continue across the world today under the hegemony of neoliberalism and the global division of labour on which Western consumerism, not freedom, is founded.
To be fair, Hayek does at least admit that capitalism has a ‘propensity’ for creating monopolies instead of competition, and that when it does, he writes, ‘the machinery of monopoly becomes identical with the machinery of the state’. But he attributes this not to the power of larger companies to undercut smaller competitors and in doing so take over their market share, but rather to government policies influenced by what he calls ‘collusive agreement’, which sounds like a polite term for corruption. However, rather than seeing such corruption as the inevitable result of the influence immensely wealthy global corporations wield over national governments, he blames this, once again and quite ludicrously, on the influence of socialist thinking on industry in Germany from the 1870s, which Hayek argues were the first companies to attain monopolies.
Presumably, from his offices at the LSE, Hayek chose to forget the East India Company that rose to control half the world’s trade by the mid-Eighteenth Century and practically ruled the British Empire in India for a hundred years; or, closer to his own time, US monopolies like the Carnegie Steel Company or Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, to which even Hayek would have trouble attributing socialist motivations. As for those German socialists of Hayek’s fevered imagination, the monopolies that funded and built the Third Reich were not state owned but bore the names of Germany’s most powerful capitalists: Thyssen, Krupp and Siemens-Schuckert, to name just three of the two dozen industrialists who in November 1932 petitioned the German President to appoint Hitler as Chancellor and the following year financed the successful election campaign of the German National Socialist Workers Party. The same could be said about the CEO’s of Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, five of the biggest companies by market value in the world today, which not only exert a joint monopoly over the technology information industry but use that monopoly to police the global biosecurity state.
This time, Hayek’s historical amnesia reads less like the rationalisations of the academic economist wrapped in the comforts of the upper-middle class into which he was born, and more like intellectual fraudulence. Rather than address the centuries of evidence that capitalism produces not competition but corporate monopolies which in our own time are threatening to surpass the influence and control of any centrally planned economy, and not only over international markets but over national governments, Hayek instead falls back on the image of the small-business entrepreneur as the ‘engineer’ of freedom and capitalism’s sacred cow of the free market. But this begs the question: if the global economy is engineered by the buying and selling of billions of private individuals, why has the financial industry risen to dominate the global economy as it does today?
For the purposes of this article, however, my interest in Hayek is less in the lack of historical and economic justifications for his equation of socialism with fascism than in how his arguments were used to create the ideological hegemony of neoliberalism in the West, which continues to champion capitalism as the defender of freedom. It is this double blindness, about both the political reality of the finance capitalism under which we have been living since the 1980s and the chimera of socialism it supposedly protects us from, that has contributed to our failure to understand the nature of the revolution in capitalism marked by the construction of the global biosecurity state. This failure is not only in the easily refuted description of this superstructure as ‘communist’, but also in the widely-held perception that, insofar as it is erasing what freedoms remained to us, the global biosecurity state represents a deviation from the principles of capitalism. Against all the evidence to the contrary, the vast majority of the populations who have lived in neoliberal economies for the past forty years, at least in the nation states of the West, continue to believe that capitalism is founded on a free market, on private enterprise, on competition, on consumer demand, and on other illusory self-representations of capitalist ideology, rather than, as is clearly the case, on the monopolisation of markets by global corporations, on the division and exploitation of labour by globalisation, on an economy planned and manipulated by the monetary policies of international financial organisations, and on the bailouts of banks by the nation state whenever the internal contradictions of capitalism result in the ever more frequent crises of a financial system built on credit. Contrary to what the followers of Hayek have argued for the past fifty years and more, this, and not socialism, is the road to serfdom; this, as the present is demonstrating for those with the eyes to see it, is the road to fascism.
Even Hayek, however, had an inkling of this. In the final chapter of his book, in which he warns of the dangers of conferring economic powers on international technocracies, Hayek writes:
‘Any international economic authority, not subject to a superior political power, even if strictly confined to a particular field, could easily exercise the most tyrannical and irresponsible power imaginable. As there is scarcely anything which could not be justified by “technical necessities” which no outsider could effectively question — or even by humanitarian arguments about the needs of some specially ill-favoured group which could not be helped in any other way — there is little possibility of controlling that power. The kind of organisation of the resources of the world under more or less autonomous bodies, a system of comprehensive monopolies recognised by all the national governments but subject to none, would inevitably become the worst of all conceivable rackets.
‘It is curious to observe how those who pose as the most hard-boiled realists believe that, once hitherto undreamed-of power is given to an international government, which has just been represented as not even capable of enforcing a simple rule of law, this greater power will be used in so unselfish and so obviously just a manner as to command general consent. If anything is evident, it should be that, while nations might abide by formal rules on which they have agreed, they will never submit to the direction which international economic planning involves. Even if, at first, the peoples should, under some illusion about the meaning of such proposals, agree to transfer such powers to an international authority, they would soon find out that what they have delegated is not merely a technical task but the most comprehensive power over their very lives.
‘While the great powers will be unwilling to submit to any superior authority, they will be able to use those “international” authorities to impose their will on the smaller nations within the area in which they exercise hegemony. By thus camouflaging the planning authorities as “international” it might be easier to achieve the condition under which international planning is alone practicable, namely, that it is in effect done by one single predominant power. This disguise would, however, not alter the fact that for all the smaller states it would mean a much more complete subjection to an external power, to which no real resistance would any longer be possible, than would be involved in the renunciation of a clearly defined part of political sovereignty.’
Is there a more prescient description of how the illusion of averting humanitarian disasters is being used today by the ‘international’ technocracies of the West to impose the system of economic monopolies called Sustainable Development Goals, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance, Central Bank Digital Currency, Universal Basic Income, Pandemic Preparedness and other programmes of the Great Reset?
The failure to understand the reality of our present has already had disastrous consequences for what was left of our freedoms, most obviously in the belief held by the majority of the populations of the neoliberal democracies of the West that what we have undergone over the past two years is a perhaps overzealous and undoubtedly destructive but for all that justified response to a threat to public health from a viral pandemic that threatened Western civilisation. Just as importantly, perhaps, the failure to see the global biosecurity state as the next stage in the development of Western capitalism has done much to paralyse the forces that might have opposed its almost uninterrupted domination of the West in little more than two years. The simplest answer to the widely-asked question of why coronavirus-justified restrictions and regulations have so suddenly been dropped is that they are no longer needed. As demonstrated by the ready adoption of the World Health Organisation’s Pandemic Preparedness Treaty by every Western government without a referendum, parliamentary vote, public debate or even mention in the media, the facade of democracy the global biosecurity state struggled to maintain over the last two years of lockdown, ‘vaccine’ mandates and other erasures of our human rights and freedoms is now all-but redundant outside the media platforms of global information technology companies. The propaganda, of course, will continue and even increase, in order to keep the Left chattering on social media; but the political, legal and cultural superstructure of the nation state is no longer capable of holding the new global technocracy to account, and is knuckling down to its new role as administrator and enforcer of its dictates.
4. The Function of the Left
The question, then, to which I return after my long digression through neoliberalism’s attempts to consign socialism to Trotksy’s dustbin, is why the Left of today, if it isn’t proto-fascist as Hayek claimed, has collaborated so willingly with the global biosecurity state, which is capitalist in its economic infrastructure, fascist in its political and legal superstructure, and totalitarian in its vision of a New World Order? I’ve already addressed aspects of the answer in ‘Political Perspectives’, the opening section of the third part of my report on The UK ‘Vaccination’ Programme: Part 3: Resistance, a version of which was published by Left Lockdown Sceptics in October 2021. I won’t repeat all my arguments here, but I will draw on this text to make the following attempt at an answer to this question, which has so confused those on the Left who are opposed to this new form of totalitarianism.
If, by the Left, we mean in the UK the Labour Party and those trades unions, political organisations and pressure groups that advocate voting for it every time there’s an election, then the UK Left has little or nothing socialist in its principles, politics or practices. For those of us who read its policies and oppose its actions in town hall and local authority, Labour is irrefutably and even openly a party whose political philosophy is founded in the principles of neoliberalism. This is, perhaps, most demonstrably evident in its collusion in the marketisation of human needs such as housing and the financialisation of those markets by global capital. It has come as no surprise to me, therefore, that the UK Left, including not only Labourites but the wide diaspora of people who calls themselves ‘Leftists’ and even ‘socialists’, have become fervent ideologues of the biosecurity state. But it’s not, as Hayek and his acolytes argue, because of the inherent authoritarianism of socialism that leads it to impose a totalitarian social model at the first opportunity. There is (it can’t be repeated too often) little or nothing socialist — in the Labour Party nothing, in its affiliates and fellow travellers little — about the policies or practices of the UK Left. Even those small groups and independent organisations that are openly critical of Labour have adopted the UK Left’s almost universal support for biosecurity restrictions, remain indifferent to the immiseration and suffering of the UK working class they are effecting, and have steadfastly refused to join the millions of UK workers protesting against their imposition, having instead uncritically accepted and adopted the government’s and corporate media’s dismissal of those workers as ‘far-right conspiracy theorists’.
I said earlier that the political naivety of the Left disposed it to welcome the regulations and programmes of the biosecurity state as the triumph of the common good over government incompetence and ‘right-wing’ greed; but that was two years ago, and naivety has become bad-faith and denial in the face of the vast apparatus of global biosecurity that’s been constructed around, between and within us. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Left now regrets its collaboration, which of course continues today; or hasn’t steadfastly confined its protests at the erasure of our rights and freedoms being enacted by the wave of new legislation introduced on the back of 582 coronavirus-justified statutory instruments, without admitting any relationship between them. The betrayals and duplicities of the Left are legion, but many socialists are still asking how it came to this.
What all the Left shares — and the origin of its otherwise inexplicable collusion with the implementation of the UK biosecurity state — is the former’s decades-long infiltration by the neoliberal ideologies of multiculturalism, political correctness, identity politics and, most recently, the orthodoxies of woke, about which I wrote in my previous article. In some organisations, the infiltration is marginal and exists, under the umbrella of ‘intersectionality’, in an uneasy and usually unexamined co-existence with the slogans — if not the practices — of socialism. In others, such as the Labour Party and its affiliates, what socialist principles they may once have had have been entirely replaced by the values and orthodoxies of these relatively new ideologies, which have manifested themselves in such youthful, energetic and well-funded movements as Momentum, Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, and now the masked-up advocates of the global biosecurity state. These are all pro-capitalist movements, hostile to the working class, and directly if not openly opposed to socialism; and it’s by their principles that the Left has operated for some time in the UK as in all the former neoliberal democracries of the West. As we saw most publicly in the counter demonstrations organised across Canada during the blockade against ‘vaccine’ mandates this February, the Left didn’t hesitate to align itself with the Government of Justin Trudeau and the riot police he deployed, denounced truckers as ‘white supremacists’ and every other insult in the woke handbook, while waving placards telling working men and women facing destitution at the hands of the biosecurity state to ‘check their privilege’.
This largely middle-class, neoliberal Left, which today constitutes a homogeneous force of compliance across the biosecurity states of the West, did not suddenly become devotees of the restrictions and programmes imposed on the justification of a threat to public health that never existed. On the contrary, the Left is the Church in which the COVID-faithful have been raised, its guiding religion and cultic practices formed by the same radically conservative beliefs. To state again what should be obvious to all: no-platforming, cancel culture, misogyny disguised as trans-rights, policing of opinion, and all the other symptoms of this totalitarian ideology did not emerge from a politics of emancipation, class struggle or economic equality. They emerged from, and are advocates for, authoritarian practices of censorship, suppression of debate and punishment of non-compliance that are culturally inseparable from the technologies of surveillance and control developed by finance capitalism to police and protect its borders. These, of course, are not the borders between the nation states that finance capitalism straddles like a colossus and across which the global biosecurity state now controls our movements to a degree hitherto unimaginable to the children of multiculturalism, but rather the borders between the international corporations and offshore jurisdictions through which global capital flows and scrutiny by, or accountability to, what remains of the public sector in those nation states.
To claim that this corporate, technocratic, authoritarian, repressive, violent and totalitarian ideology has anything in common with the emancipatory aims of socialism shows just how little the ideologues of the Left know or care about socialist politics, socialist principles or socialist practices, except insofar as it exists to suppress any organisation that attempts to enact them. Indeed, with such willing compliance from the Left, is there any need anymore for the ideologues of capitalism to extol its supposedly unique ability to defend our freedoms? The declarations of a New World Order coming out of the concurrent meetings of the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation being held as I write strongly suggest not. As an ideological principle, ‘freedom’, which was largely an invention of Western propagandists after the Second World War both to differentiate Western imperialism from fascism and in order to give consumer capitalism a veneer of morality against the more obvious moral claims of socialism, is well and truly off the political agenda today. Fascism — although, as Orwell predicted, imposed under another name (‘biosecurity’; ‘net zero’; ‘environmental, social and corporate governance’; ‘stakeholder capitalism’, etc.), no longer under the authority of a sovereign Leader but sedate and subtle, and in this country appearing in a slimy Anglicised form — is the new common good to which all of us will be compelled to sacrifice our human rights, our privacy, our bodily autonomy, our freedoms. And the truth the Left continues to refuse to face up to is that none of this could have been achieved with such speed and ease without its collaboration.
But is that all? Can so momentous a historical failure, which may one day equal that of the failure of the Left to defeat the rise of fascism a hundred years ago, be attributed entirely to the ideological erasure of socialism not only from the parliamentary parties and political organisations of the Left but also from the ideology of its membership and fellow travellers? If the psychological structure of fascism, as I discussed in an earlier section, is the pull between an almost childlike obedience to the imperious forms of authority that operate above the law, and a visceral hatred of the impoverished, the diseased, the ostracised and the criminalised, what can we say about the psychological structure of the Left in the West in 2022? Is the Left now, in effect, fascist? And if it is, was Hayek right, after all, about socialism being a stepping stone to fascism?
The answer to both these questions must be ‘no’: not only because the past forty years of neoliberalism in the West, far from overseeing the increased organisation of the economy by socialist or even social-democratic governments, have instead witnessed the outsourcing of public services to the private sector and deferral of economic policy to international financial institutions; but also because the division of the political spectrum on which Hayek’s argument rested into Left and Right — with social democrats and socialists, respectively, one and two steps to the Left, and liberals and conservatives one and two steps to the right — no longer has any descriptive purchase on the political paradigm of the global biosecurity state.
As I discussed in my previous article, the authoritarian orthodoxies of woke ideology have been employed by self-styled ‘liberal democracies’ under some of the most authoritarian and anti-working-class governments in recent history — including those of Boris Johnson in the UK, Emmanuel Macron in France, Mario Draghi in Italy, Karl Nehammer in Austria and Viktor Orbán in Hungary — in order to subordinate the Left to the global biosecurity state. ‘Subordinate’ is perhaps the wrong word, because, at the same time, notionally left-wing governments — including those of Pedro Sánchez in Spain, António Costa in Portugal, Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Greece and Magdalena Andersson in Sweden — as well as Left political parties in opposition, have been just as ready to embrace the global biosecurity state on the woke principles of safety, censorship and a paternal state. And, of course, liberal and conservative governments — including those of Olaf Scholz in Germany, Mateusz Morawiecki in Poland, Alexander de Croo in Belgium and Mark Rutte in the Netherlands — have long since made woke orthodoxies the foundation of their political platforms and rapidly deployed them in their opportunist response to the coronavirus ‘crisis’. This unity of response by the notionally politically differentiated governments of European nation states, together with their willing subordination to the new technocracies of global governance, has demonstrated — hopefully once and for all — that Left and Right no longer exist as positions within the new biopolitical paradigm of the West.
One could argue that they haven’t for some time. Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the UK and one of the West’s most influential ideologues of neoliberalism, whose New Labour party did so much to close the Overton Window, replaced Left and Right with what he called ‘Open and Closed’, with the former in favour of neoliberalism, multiculturalism and globalisation, and the latter with protectionism, cultural conservatism and anti-immigration. In this new political spectrum, in which so-called ‘openness’ more accurately describes the ideology of the Left, the socialist values of political emancipation, economic equality and wealth redistribution have been removed altogether, with the middle-classes enjoined to openness and the working class dismissed as closed. Of course, with the revolution of Western capitalism into the global biosecurity state, ‘open and closed’ have taken on very different meanings, with the ‘open’ advocates of neoliberalism now demanding lockdown, the imposition of ‘vaccine’ passports as a condition of travel and mandatory medical intervention as a condition of employment, and the ‘closed’ workers defending their human rights and freedoms. Indeed, insofar as the residual polarity between Left and Right has served to divide opposition to the biosecurity state, with compliance depoliticised as obedience to medical ‘measures’ issued by supposedly non-political technocratic advisory boards (whether SAGE or the WHO), the collaboration of Left and Right has facilitated the imposition of the biopolitical paradigm of the state. Just as The Road to Serfdom allowed neoliberals to reduce politics to economics — most famously expressed in Thatcher’s slogan that ‘there is no alternative’ — the sanctimoniously repeated mantra of the COVID-faithful that the coronavirus crisis is ‘above politics’ is the dream of a post-political totalitarian world in which, whatever party is elected to administer its dictates, the state and its powers remain at the disposal of the same international organisations of global governance.
The Left, therefore, is not fascist, but neither is it socialist in any recognisable sense of the term. As the last two years have demonstrated more clearly than any other recent event in the history of the West, the Left is a residual but still functioning political form of the power of the nation state to assimilate, through the spectacle of parliamentary democracy, the potentially subversive heterogeneous elements of society into the homogeneous political order, in order to protect the productive forces of the economy from the crises of finance capitalism. The coronavirus ‘crisis’, and the collaboration of the Left in constructing the global biosecurity state, is the demonstration of this function.
Architects for Social Housing
In the next section, ‘The Camp as Biopolitical Paradigm of the State’, I’ll look at the various forms of the camp (prisoner, refugee, quarantine) used by the biosecurity state to make permanent the state of emergency as a spatial arrangement within which it will impose the dictates of the global technocracy.
Collections of articles by the same author about the UK biosecurity state :
- Virtue and Terror: Resisting the UK Biosecurity State
- Brave New World: Expanding the UK Biosecurity State through the Winter of 2020-2021
- COVID-19: Implementing the UK Biosecurity State
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