Modern totalitarianism

Modern totalitarianism*

The term “totalitarianism” has been used in the past to best describe those sociopolitical regimes in which exercise  of all powers is centralized into one political subject (eg a political party) or even a sole person. In these regimes, the separation of  the powers that underpin the parliamentary bourgeois state is abolished (or attempted to be) leaving the unconditional management of all powers to only one carrier which represents either the interests of the nation (according to its respect, e.g. Fascists in Italy, Nationalsocialists in Germany) or those of the social class (like the Communist Party of the USSR) and in this way monopolizes political power. Leaving aside the underpinnings of bourgeois power, other carriers of political and social expression such as trade unions, Mass Media, Universities and other (in theory) state independent institutions and collectives are abolished, confined or fully controlled;  an intervention that aims to reduce their social control over the political sphere or the economic production. Because of the centralized nature of totalitarian regimes the carrier of power has the capacity to carry forward its policy by monopolizing the control of information (through organized propaganda systems) and by exercising various degrees of violence.

In what extent do these features of totalitarian regimes resemble those of the sociopolitical and economic status quo that has been emerging since the last three years in the geographical area of Greece but also worldwide on the occasion and within the so-called “crisis”? Although we are not facing a totalitarian regime yet, we reckon that similarities are ample and developments constantly lead towards this direction with regard to various features of the newly emerging condition. These features can be found at various levels; they are political, economic and repressive with each level not being contained by the other. The fascist factor also comes along in order to play its role in this condition.

            Thus, by the term “modern totalitarianism” we mean as much the gradual coincidence of economic and political powers as all those methods, institutions and  provisions that carry forward social control in order to make social resistance (that spontaneously sprouts in the view of the attempted marginalization and impoverishment of a great part of the population) yield. We will attempt to record, in brief, how we perceive the features of the newly emerging condition that takes shape at three levels; political, economic and repressive.

At the political level;

1. Consent of the bourgeois political parties over the strategy for the supposed “tackling of the crisis”. This consent was ratified by the formation of a coalition government between PASOK-Nea Dimokratia- LAOS (November 2011) after 22 years (November 1989). This strategy involves the coincidence of the greek bourgeoisie with the orders of the supranational economic elites in the context of its European (EU) and American (IMF) poles.

2.Gradual dominance of the economic sector over the political one. Turning point of this shift was the appointment of a central banker (Papademos) as prime minister. But, beyond the symbolisms, in the recent years the inefficiency of parliamentarism to serve the forwarded demands of the local and supranational grand-bosses has become evident. For this reason, the typical procedures of bourgeois democracy as well as the slight social control over decision making they offer have been circumvented; needless to say this came along with the humiliation of their own laws and constitution. These developments demonstrate the – now official- lack of social control over economic production. All these developments delegitimize authority to a certain extent before some parts of society.

3. Shift of political power outside the greek borders;

It has now become evident that the greek bourgeoisie is at a disadvantage with its international competitors within a supranational capitalist institution like the EU and the European Monetary Union (we say at a disadvantage with the bourgeoisies of the states of the European capitalist center since the greek Capital readily dominates in a more peripheral level like in the Balkans). This is an endocapitalist competition in which the german economic elite (and its satellites) has managed to impose the terms that serve its interests in their competition with the US. European officials appointed in domestic ministries, special bank account in the Central Bank of Greece where taxpayer’s money is collected in order to serve the “lenders” by priority.

            The trend for even greater “internationalization” of political power is already in motion. The declarations of top European officials –supported by a great number of domestic “intellectuals”- about the need for greater “european integration”, “political unification”, “coordination” etc are constantly being propagated. The real policy making centers are the headquarters in Brussels and Frankfurt and not the greek parliament or the government mansion. This trend leads to an even greater centralization of political power in centers outside the boarders.

2.At the economic level;

We can consider this attack that the non privileged part of greek society is subject to as part of a more general attack that has been waged at a global level in the context of the rapid advance of neoliberalism – the polito-economic view which argues that only private enterprise and the motive for profit can ensure the general welfare for society and thus any social control over the economy is deemed detrimental. With this assumption in regard, the mass redistribution of wealth towards the top of the pyramid of social classes is attempted. The ongoing devaluation of waged work, the seizure of private property mainly from the banks, the consolidation of waged work (and this, “flexible”) as the dominant work model. More wealth in the hands of fewer people, more dependent and easier to control working people.

            This trend is taking enormous proportions since after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the, from then on, apparent monopoly of capitalist democracy. Central carriers of this trend are big multinational corporations which, through globalization, have mounted enormous wealth and power, seizing control as the new real global bosses. In this context the once social state (anyhow a contradictory term since it is about goods and services that should be taken for granted and not as gifts of the most antisocial institution, the State) becomes gradually annihilated, growing parts of society lack essential means for their survival. Typical examples of neoliberal policies were those of Reagan in the US and of Thatcher in the UK during the 80’s. Nevertheless, in Greece, because of special political conditions (increased social resistance and the danger of systemic destabilization) the advance of neoliberalism was deterred and delayed.

            Key role in this condition today is being played by the financial capital. This form of capital has gained such an enormous weight that it is now in a position to drastically and directly determine state fiscal policies by applying a model which during systemic prosperity it gets richer and in the time of crisis it is compensated by its subordinates in order for it to keep robbing them when it is back on its feet. Striking example of the above is the recapitalization of bankrupt private banks with taxpayer money.

            One additional key point in the centralization of power at the economic level is the privatization of big non profit state enterprises of public utilities like Public Power Corporation (ΔΕΗ), Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (ΟΤΕ), Public Gas Corporation (ΔΕΠΑ)  with strategic importance. The operation of water supply companies by private sector standards will have tragic consequences in the standard of leaving of the non-priviliged part of the population. And although the tragic effects of the privatization of water supply companies are recent and evident even by the bourgeois standards (like in Paris where recently the administration of water supply industries is being transferred back to the public sector), in Greece these companies are still in the list of privatizations. So, centralization of economic power and the gap between rich and poor is now at its highest level since the inception of capitalism.


The level of state repression


The oncoming political and economic totalitarianism has an indispensable partner; Upgrade of social control and repression. Key points in the taking of measures of social control and repression were the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the insurrection of December 2008 that was followed by a counter-insurrection policy.


1. Police state and repression. The strategy of the state can be summed up in the doctrine of “zero tolerance” to resistance, to those means that authority very easily determines as being legal or not. Thus, the suspension of a protest banner can be the cause of a long detention in the police station, symbolic sit-in demonstrations can be the reason of being beaten up or be exposed to tear-gas while strikes can easily be proclaimed illegal and the strikers be subject to political conscription. Squats are upgraded into “centers of lawlessness” and gas masks (commonly used by protesters as a mean of self defense against the massive use of tear gases by the police) into “criminal findings” while empty bottles of beer are converted into petrol bombs. Another tactic is the one of torturing, practised in police stations, where Greece ranks- by far- first in Europe. From the State point of view it makes perfect sense to target the Anarchists out of the resisting part of society and that is because the Anarchists’ beliefs and practice move very close or even breach the boundaries of “zero tolerance”, in contrast to other political groups. However, this targeting is not confined anymore to Anarchists but it includes ever widening resisting parts of society.

            Police repression is always accompanied by the judicial one. Thus, a whole arsenal of legislation is employed that aims to illegalize participation in the movement. From the Act against the use of hoods during demonstrations to illegalization of passive resistance to state violence, to the prosecutions based on DNA forensics (case of Aris Seirinidis), to the constant updates of “anti-Terrorism” Acts that now include not only armed revolutionary violence but also mass movement practises.


2.Social Control

            Except from the aggrandizement of state repression, there is an equal aggrandizement in preventive strategy and social control illustrated by the huge increase of phone tapping. Respective report of the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy reveals that during 2010 six thousand and four hundred (6.400) judicial rulings for phone tapping were issued and during 2011 this number was 9.276. Fifty thousand phone lines were tapped. Of these, 3,472 where about “state security”. Increase in the use of CCTV cameras, consolidation of preventive detention during demonstrations and rallies, consolidation of the practise of mass detention of protesters at sites of assembly, publication of photos of arrested protesters (see the arrested protesters of February the 12th 2012), DNA banks, attempts for legislating DNA sampling even from suspects for misdemeanors. Of note, there was a recent police project under codename THETIS during which drug addicts were “collected” (as if they were litter!!) and catalogued in the concentration camp for illegal immigrants “Amygdaleza”, practises reminiscent of the times of the Republic of Weimar.


Social control also extends to economic activity with the reduction of the transduction limit that can be carried out with cash, the obligatory mediation of banks, the direct access of tax collecting agencies to private bank accounts, the exchange of information between insurance companies for tracking down of non insuranced vehicles and the list is endless. In a few words, a stifling condition of control that demands social subordination to “common good” as this is expressed by the State.

            The cornerstone of social control is the greek mass media system which is probably the most manipulated system in the western world and has given all it’s got in order to back the interests of the domestic and supranational elite. The voices of dissent against the Commision or the Governments planning are cut off, journalists assuming the roles of judges and prosecutors appeal for more policing and repression, they target social strugglers, they call for snitching, disorientate from the true causes of the economic crisis.


The fascist/nationalist factor: Within the general context of totalitarian direction the rise of the far right is an appropriate ally and also a contributing factor is. During systemic crises it is historically confirmed that parts of society turn to the ideology of nationalism in their attempt to grasp from the unity of the imagined community of the nation. These parts try to attribute all the bad things happening to them exclusively to “foreign centers of power” that want to harm poor little Greece, to immigrants, to “useless” or “traitor politicians”. This is also true for ensconced lower-middle class who watch the wealth they earned off the backs of immigrant workers, and not only, being lost because of the economic crisis. Let alone in a society like the greek one with a long tradition of nationalist dictatorships and far right residues.

            With regard to the march towards totalitarianism we may say that fascism is a decisive contributor acting in many ways, especially in at the level or repression by attempting e.g. the repression of workers mobilizations (see collaboration with manufacturer and factory owner Manesis in Volos, collaboration with Mpompolas and Eldorado Gold for the goldmines in Chalkidiki), repression and marginalization of a great number of immigrant workers.

            Even though for reasons of chance, the fascists have not yet developed the desired connections with big corporate interests in Greece -and that is the reason they appear having an anti-systemic façade- we must not forget that the nationalist ideology, wherever it managed to prevail, it embraced total control of society and complete submission of the working class to the imagined community of the nation and corporate interests with the ultimate sacrifice of  the lives of working people in the theatres of war massacres.

            In the present statement we discussed the initiatives taken from the state that shape the condition of modern totalitarianism. Nevertheless, authority is not without an opponent. Vigorous cells of resistance from the part of society have been created and keep being expressed with increasing vigour. We do not forget that all the bills of the Memorandum between Greece and the Troika passed by means of violence and repression. With demonstrations and rallies of sometimes hundreds of thousands of people confronted with beatings, tear-gas, arrests and prosecutions. The struggle for social liberation rages on with increasing heat and this is one of the reasons of the great surge of social control and repression we described. State and Capital do not have any consent to carry on the fulfilment of their policies and interests. It is up to us to realize that it is only by self-organizing and through our own initiatives we can get rid of the exploitation and repression of the State and Capital.


 *this article is enclosed in our brochure “Psila Grammata” issue#1

This entry was posted in Μεταφράσεις Κειμένων. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *