Friday, March 9, 2012

Right-wing alternatives to free-market capitalism

Most critiques of capitalism are inspired by leftist ideas, but not all approaches accept the Marxist emphasis on class struggle and some have little interest in egalitarian ideals.

Chinese radicalism, for example, is first and foremost nationalistic and focuses now on the need for social harmony. Strong Confucian values - which have proved more resilient than the early revolutionaries foresaw - are incompatible not only with class conflict but also with strict egalitarianism.

In Europe, there has been a revival of right-wing radicalism, driven largely by economic upheavals and the perceived problems of mass immigration. In fact, I suspect the radical right will become more significant in the years to come as the economic situation worsens.

In France, the theorists and activists of the far right draw on a tradition of French and European thought expounded amongst others by Maurice Bardèche in the post World War II period. Bardèche wrote an essay* on 'fascist socialism', reprising a theme previously taken up in France by the novelist Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Bardèche freely admits it's an idea which has never really been tested or implemented and his whole approach is romantic and revolutionary rather than pragmatic and conservative. He is essentially a literary figure, having written highly regarded works on French writers (notably on Proust) and on the history of cinema.

Bardèche believed that every new vision of social relations which rejects Marxism rests on a number of postulates. Only an authoritarian regime, he thought, can protect the national interest against the power of global capital. It is a key function of the state to protect the nation's economy which is such a crucial part of the social fabric.

In fact, modern nations are politico-economic enterprises and power lies just as much with those who control the economy as with those who make political decisions. Bardèche recognized, however, that the instruments appropriate to the exercise of such integrated power were yet to be invented.

He thought there should be loyal collaboration between different groups and classes rather than class struggle. The latter leads to the sabotage of the nation's economy and to a bureaucratic dictatorship. It is a function of the state to encourage and promote labor-capital collaboration.

Unfortunately, the emphasis on nationalism on the part of the radical right is inevitably associated with racism and the tendency to blame foreigners (whether they be non-European immigrants or the supposed - and inevitably 'Jewish' - agents of international capital) for the nation's problems.

My personal view is that European neo-fascism is little more than a quasi-literary fantasy, albeit a dangerous one (because it can give a cloak of sophistication and respectability to thuggish groups and causes). Chinese state capitalism will have a far greater global impact, but to what extent it will adapt to the current global economic system and to what extent it will change it remains to be seen.

* Socialisme fasciste. Waterloo: Editions de Javelot, 1991.