The Political Economy of Scapegoating

 

 

 

ussr-vs-isis1Scapegoating is as old a tactic as political power itself, and a vital tool in the perpetuation of political, economic and social privilege. James Madison, the Father of the US Constitution, expressed a great truism about state power when he described its fundamental role as being to defend ‘the minority of the opulent from the majority.’ What Madison neglected to mention was that the defense of the minority of the opulent against the majority tended to entrench and exacerbate social and economic inequality. This in turn precipitated social chaos as inequality and disorder exacerbated social and class conflict, threatening the stability of the system as a whole.

 

Faced with this situation, the minority of the opulent required some mechanism or other to neutralize social conflict and ensure stability without having to address its root causes in the defense of their economic and social privileges from economic democracy and social justice. They needed to be able to establish and maintain a state of peace without justice, a state long understood to be synonymous with tyranny. Whether the tyranny concerned was that of an individual autocrat, or a class of them, the same problem remained; what the minority of the opulent needed in effect was an ideological safety valve to take the pressure away of actually existing social conflicts and tensions and divert them onto a scapegoat, onto one or another ideological punching bag for the shortcomings of a society devoted to maintaining the minority of the opulent in the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. Continue reading

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The slander of ‘has-beens’

Stalin

We must bear in mind that the growth of the power of the Soviet state will increase the resistance of the last remnants of the dying classes. It is precisely because they are dying, and living their last days that they will pass from one form of attack to another, to sharper forms of attack, appealing to the backward strata of the population, and mobilizing them against the Soviet power. There is no foul lie or slander that these ‘have-beens’ would not use against the Soviet power and around which they would not try to mobilize the backward elements. This may give ground for the revival of the activities of the defeated groups of the old counter-revolutionary parties: the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, the bourgeois nationalists in the centre and in the outlying regions; it may give grounds also for the revival of the activities of the fragments of counter-revolutionary opposition elements from among the Trotskyites and the Right deviationists. Of course, there is nothing terrible in this. But we must bear all this in mind if we want to put an end to these elements quickly and without great loss.

– Josef Stalin, explaining in The Results of the First Five-Year Plan (1933), that criticism of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat could only come from those who were hopeless suckers for capitalism, not because the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state.

http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/RFFYP33.html

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war

The Drums of War

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.

– Anonymous

The next step forward

V.I. Lenin

V.I. Lenin

“Socialism is merely the next step forward from state capitalist monopoly…socialism is merely state capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly.”

– V.I. Lenin, 1918, explaining that a state capitalist monopoly controlled by a totalitarian dictatorship was the only logical solution to the inequalities and irrationalities of the capitalist system.

Passing moods of the workers' democracy

Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky

“[They have] placed the workers’ right to elect representatives above the party. As if the party were not entitled to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship temporarily clashed with the passing moods of the workers democracy.”

– Leon Trotsky, 10th Party Congress, 1921, explaining that the Bolshevik Party had a right to impose a dictatorship on the working class in the name of the working class even when the working class appeared not to think it was in their own best interests.