SVETOZAR STOJANOVIĆ

 

THE STATE OF HUMANITY AND THE TRANSITION FROM COMMUNISM TO  CAPITALISM

 

 

PART ONE: STATE OF HUMANITY

 

1. AUTO-APOCALYPSE

 

Philosophers and other thinkers have been debating long and hard over the relationship between the modern and the postmodern. I emphasize, however, that the majority of humankind still exists within the premodern, and that this is more important than the transition from the modern into postmodern. The most crucial contrast is still not modern vs. postmodern but rather premodern vs. modern and postmodern. How and for how long can the human race survive with such a gap yawning within itself (and yawning not only between societies and states, but also within them) when auto-apocalyptic means are at hand? That is the crucial question. Pre-modern – modern – postmodern, such a division of history is still relative. The only absolute division is between the most recent state of affairs where humans are able to wipe themselves (and perhaps all other living beings) from the face of the earth, on the one hand, and history as a whole before that where they fortunately were not able to do so, on the other hand.

If I am right it follows that auto-apocalypse must be separated from the categorical and epochal dichotomy between modernity/modernism and post-modernity/post-modernism and given an absolute priority, both theoretical and practical. I characterize this break as post-postmodernity and reflection upon it post-postmodernism.

Here are my reasons for the deconstruction of the post-modernist deconstruction of modernism:

The threat of the self-destruction of humanity cannot be adequately treated by post-modernist: de-totalization, radical de-construction, de-subjectization of humans, fragmentation, differentiation, heterogeneity, de-foundation, individual and group perspectivism, small and local narratives, relativization of all truths, including scientific ones, and all values, even those most humanistic ones.

Rather, in order to survive we need the opposite ideas: theoretical and practical re-totalization, radical re-construction, re-subjectization of humans, globalization, equalization, homogeneity, re-foundation, a universal human perspective, a great and central narrative, absolutization of the truth of the threatening auto-apocalypse and absolutization of the value of the survival of human species. 

History represents the progress of freedom and the progress of awareness of freedom—on these Hegelians, modernists, liberals, Marxist humanists…would surely agree. But since recently we have been forced to define history as progress in preventing humanity’s self-destruction. While humankind’s survival was in the past taken tacitly as the given precondition of progress, albeit measured in other indicators, we are today compelled to acknowledge that a decrease in the probability of the annihilation of humankind is the meta-criterion of progress. From now on, and for as long as it exists, that is how humankind will have to measure its most essential progress. This does not, of course, mean that there is no sense in continuing to endeavor, within the scope of that overdetermination (the possibility of auto-apocalypse), to improve our lives with a series of advancements in the customary sense of the word and even to rejoice at such advancements.

Post-modernists deny any meaning to history. I claim that at least one meaning of history still exists—it is the struggle for humanity’s survival.

Post-modernists claim that ours is the time of the “end of all great narratives” (meta-narratives). My post-postmodernism starts from the necessity of a super meta-narrative (a narrative of all narratives), that of preventing an auto-apocalypse.

But to avoid a misunderstanding I should say that post-postmodernism ought to include all important lessons drawn from the postmodernist critique of modernism. In other words, post-postmodernism cannot be a simple return to modernism and its alleged quite solid foundation.

 

*****

Hegel left us some valuable insights about the relationship between master and servant, i.e., about their mutual struggle for recognition.[1] In the mid-20th century, however, the relationship between humans and their creativity began imposing itself as the central problem. The main emphasis can no longer be on the struggle for recognition between master and servant; it must be on the struggle for humanity’s survival. Our chief concern ought to be the prospect of the absolute alienation of human creativity, and along with it the possibility and probability of the self-destruction of humankind. It goes way beyond “negative dialectics” into what I call absolute negative dialectics.

The ability of the self-destruction of humanity constitutes now its most specific characteristic. Since 1945 the apocalyptic possibility and likelihood have highly increased. I am not referring solely to a catastrophe caused by a nuclear war but also to one caused by chemical, biological, cybernetic, radiological and other (we do not know which ones will arise in future) apocalyptic means. I am also having in mind human-made apocalyptic ecological disasters, apocalyptic terrorists, apocalyptic suicides and apocalyptic lunatics and not only apocalyptic war conflagrations between states. I believe that terrorist fanaticism is a greater apocalyptic danger than a “clash of civilizations.” To this list apocalyptic accidents should also be added—human beings have never been capable of creating perfect technological means.

Humanity is playing an apocalyptic roulette. This danger is irreversible. Humanity finds itself in a race with apocalyptic time. The image I have been using is the ship “Humanic” (I have coined this word from “Titanic”) in which humanity is sailing. At the same time humankind is showing a monumental ability to delude itself and (more or less) passively await its “fate”.

The possibility and likelihood of the self-destruction of humankind has become the over-determination of all other over-determinations in history. All future social formations, not excluding the informatic one that is now being entered by the developed world, no matter how creative and progressive, will remain potentially auto-apocalyptic. Even under the far-fetched assumption of a universal and total discarding of the existing apocalyptic means, humanity will unfortunately never forget how to (re)create them.

The eventual criticism that I am overstressing the apocalyptic potential of the today’s technology is ultimately irrelevant since even if it were true now it certainly will not be true in future, in fifty, one hundred or even more years from now—and that is in the long-run, philosophically speaking more important.

 

*****

The sources of evil are most often sought in the animal side of human nature. But the possibility and probability of absolute evil (the self-destruction of the human species) is rooted in our peculiarity rather than in our animality. Apocalyptic potential is no external opposition to human creativity, but is inherent in it. As if a collective Thanatos, together with collective Eros, were built into our creativity

What we have here is a compound of infinite eagerness-to-know (as well as eagerness-to-do and eagerness-to-make), hubris, and nonchalance—a compound characteristic of humanity’s generic being. Combining two myths, I would say that because of reaching beyond the permitted boundaries Prometheus’s human being is punished not only with Sisyphus’s task of incessantly and repeatedly pushing a stone toward the summit of a hill, but also with the real danger that the stone may at any moment tumble down right on his head. To make things worse, deep in our hearts we know that we live under the shadow of a self-inflicted apocalypse, but we repress this knowledge, living a carefree, easygoing, light-hearted life, and we do little to change that state of affairs.

The abyss before us is further deepened by the already enormous disproportion between short-sightedness and far-sightedness, retrospectiveness and prospectiveness, as attributes of our intelligence.

Isn’t it very significant that there are no mass movements for the survival of humankind? Shall we be capable of undertaking anything at all serious before a part of humanity is destroyed?

But to avoid a misunderstanding: I do not have in mind any fatalistic determinism but only probabilistic determinism of contemporary technology. On the other hand, it is not a big consolation to us that auto-apocalypse is not fatally predetermined but rather “solely” very probable.

 

 

2. SYNERGY OF TWO ALIENATIONS

 

Creating means of humanity’s self-destruction has become one of the inherent features of techno-science, and not simply its by-product. Techno-science, together with its apocalyptic products, is becoming more and more alienated. The problem is even more complex because we have to rely on techno-science itself in our efforts to prevent auto-apocalypse.  Concurrently, one billion people are alienated from the remaining five billion. I am here, of course, thinking of the multiple gaps between: the rich and the poor, the scientifically and technically super-developed and the undeveloped, the comfortably populated and the overpopulated, the highly educated, well-informed and computerized…on the one hand, and the uneducated, uninformed and non-computerized…on the other hand, those with excellent medical care and ever longer life expectation (albeit already incomparably longer) and those who can only dream of such care and life expectation, the centrally positioned and the marginalized, the hyperpowerful and the  powerless…

Such types of alienation between people are historically speaking not new. What is completely new, however, is the alienation of techno-science together with its potentially apocalyptic products and potential synergy of those two forms of alienation, a synergy that can easily transform them into absolute alienation.

In order that the reader should not think I am defining alienation in an essentialist and normativistic fashion through the concepts of the “essence of man,” the “generic being of man,” or the “nature of man” (as, for example, Marx did), I must make mention of my own, long-since formulated definition: “The term 'alienation' ought to apply to a particular kind of relationship between man, on the one hand, and his activity and creations, on the other. We can locate this relationship on a continuum which begins with the state in which man loses control over his activity and creations. Further, his activity and creations can assume a position of domination over him—he becomes dependent upon them and even begins to serve them. Finally, they can enslave, terrorize, threaten, and even destroy him” (Between Ideals and Reality, p. 30f.).

One must always bear in mind that the present relationship between power and powerlessness will become more and more relative as the powerless majority gains possession of apocalyptic means to a greater and greater extent.  For how long will that majority tolerate such an inferior position? And when will it start to use apocalyptic blackmail against the one billion alienated rich and powerful? A great deal is becoming globalized today, even, unfortunately auto-apocalyptic interdependence.

 

 

3. THE NEED FOR A TOTAL ANTI-APOCALYPTIC  TURNAROUND

 

The commemoration in 2004 of the 200th anniversary of the death of Immanuel Kant, the great enlightenment thinker, and the 280th anniversary of his birth was an excellent opportunity to ask ourselves what the central characteristic of enlightenment in these absolutely new circumstances of ours should be. I believe I am right when I say that this enlightenment should consist, first and foremost, of the spreading of awareness of the potential and even ever more likely auto-apocalypse and of the need to find a way to diminish the threat, or, at the very least, not to augment it. We are in vital need of a total anti-apocalyptic turnaround in overall thought, sensitivity, activity and organization. Such a turnaround is necessary in politics, law, morality, religion, economy, customs…

Our basic concepts, practices and institutions are not adequate to come to grips with the auto-apocalyptic threat:

I am referring first to our understanding and practice of politics as a struggle for power and of power as a competitive, asymmetrical and violent zero-sum game.

What is the meaning of the sovereignty and security of existing states, even dominant states, when there is no common security and no sovereignty of humankind over its own survival! Can apocalyptic dangers be avoided if we remain within the framework of “national security states?”

The opposition of open society versus closed society pales in the face of the “choice” between humankind surviving and humankind destroying itself.

The gap between Realpolitik and Moralpolitik in international relations is oftentimes still emphasized although “Realpolitik” has also become one of the forms of “Irrealpolitik,” the politics of fatal self-deception. While politicians are obsessed with struggle for power, we are in desperate need of Metapolitik, the essential characteristic of which would be the struggle for the survival of humankind. Its motto cannot be Think Globally—Act Locally, but Think and Act Globally. In that respect the division into the Right and the Left has been totally transcended. There remains a sharp differentiation between those that actively work for the survival of humankind and those that do not practically care about it.

 

*****

All forms of morality to date, our notions of good and right, have been developed in human communities which were incapable of putting the survival of the species in question, and accordingly were incapable of practically imagining, let alone preparing, themselves for such a situation. And we now have to plead for a supercategorical imperative whereby the concern for humanity’s survival is prescribed as the duty of duties. Hans Jonas said: “For me, I admit, this imperative is the only one which really fits the Kantian sense of categorical, that is unconditional”. (“The Imperative of Responsibility. In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age,” The University of Chicago Press, 1984, p.43) I would even assert that potential future generations in some sense should have been part of our moral community more and more manifestly ever since we have had the capacity for self-destruction. 

In auto-apocalyptic circumstances “fundamental moral dilemmas” in ethics textbooks sound rather trivial, such as those connected to abortion, suicide, euthanasia, sexual behavior, business transactions… Even ethical discussions on “radical evil” are obsolete in a certain sense as we are living with the very real possibility of humankind’s self-destruction, which would be absolute evil.

In a situation where part of humankind (a “small” apocalypse) would have to be sacrificed in order to prevent its full annihilation (total apocalypse), humanism based on the deontological principle of “Fiat justicia, pereat mundus” would be perilous.

In my opinion, utilitarian ethics as a dimension of utilitarian humanism would be less incompatible with that anti-apocalyptic choice than deontological ethics and deontological humanism. In such a situation, utilitarianism would, of course, assume a radically negative character. In other words it would not insist on the creation of the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of people, but only on the prevention of absolute evil (the destruction of humankind as a whole) at the cost of the production of colossal evil (the destruction of part of humankind). Kant’s categorical imperative, which urges universalizability of conduct (in one formulation) and the treatment of human beings as ends in themselves (in the other formulation), is not at all suitable for the afore-mentioned anti-apocalyptic choice and conduct. But I stress that his categorical imperative, particularly in the latter formulation, could be a moral barrier to the abuse of anti-apocalyptic utilitarianism—especially in the situations where preventive anti-apocalyptic interventions look necessary.  

If we continue to maximize the apocalyptic threat so much that the survival of humankind as a whole should prove to be impossible without sacrificing almost the whole of humankind, then we must ask ourselves whether even such utilitarianism could be humanly acceptable at all. Such an anti-apocalyptic choice is not only impossible to portray as just, but it raises the question of whether the concept of justice has any place in it at all, except perhaps if we reduce it to giving the chance of life to generations still unborn. It would perhaps be more adequate to place the idea of such a choice “beyond good and evil.”

 

*****

In order to underscore the un-humaneness of the choice described in the absolute limit situation I confront God with it. I assume: that humanity has ruined itself by some catastrophic human-made radiation, biological weapons, artificially provoked genetic change, and so on; that the only exception is a small group of men, women, and children on an island; and that God can enable the continuation of the human species if he spares this small group of that plague, but he can do it only at the cost of destroying all other people. And then I ask what God would do in such a dilemma—would such God be a deontologist or a utilitarian? Naturally, I imagine only an infinitely good God but not at the same time an omnipotent one: if he wished the human species to continue, he would have to destroy almost all of humanity. In such a situation, God would be sure to suffer from the most “unhappy consciousness” possible since he would be forced to choose between absolute evil (complete disappearance of humanity) and almost absolute evil (destruction of almost all humanity).

For those who, in the spirit of secular humanism, look on the human race and its survival as the absolute prerequisite and measure of all values—auto-apocalypse would mean the triumph of absolute and definitive evil.

On the other hand, auto-apocalypse would have, for religious humanists, to represent a triumph of the absolute temptation, absolute hubris and absolute sin.

Kant mentioned the apocalypse, but like many others before and after him he was referring only to the biblical version of the destruction of humankind and Judgment Day. But for sixty years we have been confronted with the real possibility, and even probability, of auto-apocalypse, or, if you prefer, humankind’s Self-Judgment Day. And we still have not awoken from our optimistic slumber.

How can we survive when – as Nietzsche would say – for two thousand years we have not even been able to invent some new kind of God!  How can our Gods help us to avoid auto-apocalypse when they were created for the conditions and needs of civilizations confronted only with individual or, possibly, group self-destruction, and not in any way the self-destruction of humankind!

Andre Malraux warned that unless the 21st century becomes the age of religion—humanity would be no more. The detailed meaning of what he wanted to say is not quite clear, but he was certainly right if he wanted to suggest that humanity has small prospects for survival without urgent universal religious ecumenism.

I doubt, however, that existing religions are able, emotively and intellectually, to integrate auto-apocalypcism into their corpus. One cannot see, for example, how Christianity, which is the religion of the scientifically and technologically still dominant part of the world, could abandon its fixation on hope in salvation by repentance of “original sin” and turn all its strength towards the conceptualization, emotionalization and avoidance of absolutely irreversible sin (an expression of my own coining), that is the self-destruction of humankind. It is also difficult to believe that an eventual quasi-religion of humankind could displace Christianity and the other great religions, and, instead of them, take root in the world population. If, however, one cannot hope for the quasi-sacralization of human existence in the cosmos, at least its poetization (instead of its potentially fatal profanation) would be of great assistance.

The creators of the atom bomb still felt the need to use religious language: the word “Trinity” was the code name for the testing of the first atom bomb. Faced with that spectacle, Oppenheimer even exclaimed: “We have seen the sin!”

It would seem that the language of sciences and discursive language in general is not sufficient to make quite vivid the state of affairs to which we have brought ourselves. We must also seek means of expression in religion, myth, art, negative utopia, science fiction…

Reality has, nonetheless, surpassed even these means of expression. Thus, the picture of hell is quite pale in comparison to the scenes of destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even the science fiction we have to date is not enough; a separate apocalyptic fiction must be fostered. The same is also true of dystopia—an absolute dystopia is vital to make auto-apocalypse fully vivid.

 

 

4. EXISTENTIALIST “END OF HISTORY”

 

From the hypothetic natural state of war of all against all Hobbes drew the conclusion of the need for a social contract, whereby people transfer part of their power to the sovereign in order to survive. On the basis of the latent and probable auto-apocalyptic state of affairs, however, we have to work for a humankind contract. The vital preoccupation should be the creation of an anti-apocalyptic organization of both individual states and of humankind as a whole, an anti-apocalyptic world (con)federation. We must, of course, make a more modest start with global partnership for the survival of humankind. How are we to survive as a species if we do not replace our present statesmen and politicians with new types of visionaries and power holders that would be guided by anti-apocalyptic, ecological, (con)federalist, democratic, solidaristic mondialism (that do not try to erase but respect cultural-ethnic differences)? If we cannot count on some better enlightenment and humanism, can we then count at least on enlightenment and humanism out of fear? Will the social intelligence of the human race, if only for that reason, finally prevail over its social stupidity?

Stressing that “existence” precedes the “essence” of humans and not vice-versa, existentialist philosophers rightly criticized essentialists in philosophy. However, the newly created “essence” of humans (capability to destroy their race) is now bringing their very existence into danger. Can there be a greater reason for collective existential concern, Angst, horror..?

My concept of a humankind contract stems from and slots into the broader conception of humankind existentialism as a thought and practice. It is well- known that earlier existentialists were as a rule preoccupied with the problems of the existence of the human individuals and groups and not with the existence of humankind. 

It can now be predicted that more and more states and societies, even those founded on (internal) freedoms and desirous to maintain them, will become transformed into states and societies focused on the struggle for survival in the face of auto-apocalyptic threats. I believe that confronted more and more with such threats liberalism will actually, and later probably also explicitly, yield the place of the fundamental operative (unlike declarative) view of the world, ideology, imageology, and principle of social organization – to humankind existentialism. We have entered an existentialist “end of history” instead of the proclaimed liberalistic “end of history” (Fukuyama).

 

 

PART TWO: SOME THOUGHTS ON THE TRANSITION

FROM COMMUNISM TO CAPITALISM

 

5. CAPITALIST TOTALIZATION

 

Human societies are more prone to change other aspects of their lives – politics, law, education, religion, morality, ideology…— than, by insisting on them remaining the way they are, to prevent the development of science and technology and their implementation in the creation of goods and services, as well as means of violence. This can also be formulated in an explicitly teleological manner: to forestall stagnation, regression and collapse, human societies must adjust the other aspects of their lives to the advancement of science and technology and their implementation in the creation of goods and services, as well as means of violence. It is true that opposite tendencies have prevailed in some societies and even entire civilizations, but that has been the reason for their stagnation, regression and collapse, frequently under blows from more adaptable neighbors, opponents and enemies.

That adjustment tendency has gained in strength throughout history, particularly since the onset of modern times, and it has assumed global proportions today, having become a planetary rule virtually without exception (a historical law of its kind). In other words, throughout the world the development and implementation of scientific and technological innovations are now demolishing all obstacles standing in their way.

My formulation of that rule reveals Marx’s influence, but it also shows that I have greatly revised his “economic base” approach (even in his best formulations that are not rigidly deterministic). The introduction of the creation of means of killing (and not only means of living) represents the greatest change in that equation. 

Contrary to Marx’s predictions, it transpires that the capitalist mode of production, both domestic and global, continues to represent the most favorable and most attractive medium for scientific and technological innovations and their implementation in the creation of goods and services, as well as means of violence. That is why non-capitalist systems are losing the race against the capitalist system more and more throughout the world. If it wishes to be effective, contemporary enlightened humanism must to a certain extent assume capitalist face as well.

But there is capitalism and capitalism. Let us recall that the laissez-faire illusion of the 1920’s and 1930’s nearly struck the death knell to capitalism. Since then, social-liberal, social-democratic, social-Christian capitalism and even communist-capitalism (in China, for example) have prevailed more and more.

The key question is whether capitalism provides the best opportunity for individual countries and, what is far more important, for humankind as a whole to, at the very least, diminish apocalyptic alienations. If global capitalism is not regulated and combined with global solidarism (global socialism of sorts), then it will increase and not lessen the probability of humankind’s self-destruction. Regrettably, there are no prospects in sight of a radical redistribution of goods, services, and power in the world, although even egoism, under the condition that it is rational, would dictate that welfare and powerful societies and states should provide abundant assistance to poverty stricken and powerless societies and states.

It is tragic that even a radical redistribution of wealth and power among countries – and we know that the chances of such are still slim – can only decrease the probability of the human race destroying itself.

 

*****

The United States may truly be held up as a model for many nations. That country's achievements are truly impressive: a pluralistic, legalistic, democratic, and federalist organization of the country; a division of power into executive, legislative, and judicial; a population that is a microcosm in terms of cultural and ethnic origin and composition; mass immigration from all over the world; a contribution to the victory in two world wars; the leading role in scientific, technological, and economic advancement, which has been tremendously increased by the latest innovations in the information and communication technology; high living standards; huge population mobility; constant (self)mobilization of the population in the form of numerous social movements for the improvement of the position and influence of women, racial minorities, sexual minorities, and so on; free experimenting with lifestyles; great heights in many areas of culture (only the ignorant will think that the only culture that flourishes there is the pop culture); and so on. At the present time, one should stress especially the common sense, pragmatism, and moderation of the American electorate which has forced President Bush to start reexamining his untenable strategy in Iraq.

            The United States is trying to totalize its ideology and imageology, its own lifestyle, and its own outlook of the world based on the above achievements. One of the deepest roots of its collapse in Iraq is its totalistic insistence on imposing on that country the US citizenist (rather than cultural-ethnic one) understanding and practice of "nation", according to which all citizens of that country should make "one single and indivisible Iraqi nation"; however, it is becoming increasingly clear — but not before spilling a sea of blood — that there is no force that can bridge the religious, cultural and ethnic gaps that yawn among the local Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and others.

            This is not totalitarianism, as many are quick to accuse the United States of, and especially the totalitarian jihadists. Even a cursory comparison of the United States as a totalizer (rather than a totalitarizer) with fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism — to which the term totalitarianism justly applies — will show how incorrect and irresponsible it is to speak of US totalitarianism. "Civil society" in that country is extremely strong and independent from the state, whereas totalitarianism is characterized by civil society's complete subjugation to the state and total state control over social life. We must not allow ourselves to be misled by the word "total" in the root of the concept of totalitarianism. Truth be told, the word does suggest something that is significant about the United States, but only if one is referring to American totalism and certainly not to any kind of American totalitarianism. What I am referring to is the United States' very strong aspiration to spread its influence and power throughout the world by example, an active effort, and — if necessary and where possible — even by military force. The United States is trying to totalize, universalize the capitalist mode of production and the capitalist market; the English language as the lingua franca of our time; freedom of movement and employment of the best experts and creators all over the world; the fight against terror; democracy and human rights (as it interprets and practices them)...The fact that this is not totalitarianism is evident not only from the manner governing in the United States, but also from the fact that, both in that country and outside it, there are operating increasingly strong anti-globalistic movements, which are receiving full support and recruiting numerous supporters precisely from that country's "civil society."

            It is turning out that the definition of the United States as a "superpower" — and the "only superpower" at that — is fundamentally flawed. The very term "superpower" suggests a kind of superhuman, almost divine power. The United States does not have limitless power because (among other things) apocalyptic weapons are at the disposal of some considerably weaker states (in every other respect), including North Korea, weapons which they can use to destroy or cause the destruction of a large part of humankind — and according to all indicators, their number and strength will grow. Besides, the question arises as to what kind of "superpower" it is that cannot dictate the situation even in some countries that do not have such weapons, such as Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to name but a few. Furthermore, what can one say about the ratio of force (including apocalyptic force) between the United States and the other big powers, such as Russia, China, India, and others. In view of all this, it is not justified to designate the United States as a superpower, but only as a big power, albeit still more powerful than the other big powers, especially in terms of its capacity to project power at long range.

 

 

6. CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY IN POSTCOMMUNISM            

           

Postcommunist development ensued following the demise of monopolistic structural control on the part of the communist-statist class over the state and, through it, over the economy and other sectors. Postcommunism is a mix of communism, precommunism, capitalism, nationalism, authoritarianism, democracy…that differs significantly from country to country and the final results of which depend on what prevails from among these tendencies.

I would like to emphasize that there is a tension and even contradiction between postcommunist capitalism and postcommunist democracy, all the more because the ideological and imageological illusion is widespread that capitalism and democracy always go hand in hand. In reality, however, such an economy and such a political order are forms of social organization as well as aspects of culture and mentality that only in the long run are mutually supportive and reinforcing.

In capitalism it was only partial democracy that had existed until relatively recently: the right to vote had been limited to taxpayers and literate citizens (exclusively men), i.e. to those who were as a rule interested in seeing capitalism succeed. As capitalism spread and increased its strength, the electorate also grew. Only much later and under great social pressure did the symbiosis between capitalism and general democracy come into being.

On the contrary, in postcommunism as a rule there are no electoral limitations and consequently general democracy (in a formal sense) already exists within it from the very beginning. However, between postcommunist capitalism and postcommunist democracy there is still a tension and even a contradiction: a great part of the electorate is opposed to the procapitalist parties, particularly those who threaten it with the social-Darwinist measures of “instant capitalism”. Procapitalist elitism is encountering serious resistance on the part of the anticapitalist populism.

Since there was no capitalist class, the procapitalist political elite has had to play the role of “dominant class substitute”. In a certain sense one could say that in the beginning of postcommunism there was not even a working class. The inherited labor force was in keeping with the system of communist statism. With regard to interests, mentality, and expectations, it bore little resemblance to the for-hire market work force that is indispensable for the development of capitalism. The communist-statist “working people” had to be transformed into real capitalist “working class”.

It is from politics as still the dominant factor in postcommunism that is expected to bring about by intervention from above the transformation of communist statism as a socio-political formation into capitalism as a socio-economic formation.

It is essential also not to loose sight of the tension and even contradiction between the international “capitalist encirclement” and postcommnist democracy: the preferences of the domestic electorate do not coincide with the radical capitalist demands on the part of western governments, business circles, and financial institutions. True, foreign factors can help a great deal, but they cannot completely substitute a nascent capitalist class in the postcommunist countries.    

 

 

PART THREE: SERBIA VIS-À-VIS THE DOMINANT WORLD

 

7. SERBIA’S RELATIONSHIPS TO USA, EU, AND RUSSIA

 

Serbia’s poor relations with the United States during the 1990s, which culminated in the US military attack in 1999, are a veritable historical anomaly. From 1878 (when we regained full independence) until practically the end of 1980s, our relations were good, even excellent: as allies in two world wars and also when the United States helped us greatly, after Stalin’ attacks against Tito in 1948, to keep our independence, and to improve our economy and the living standards. For all this, we owe the United States a big debt of gratitude.

It is noticeable that the United States wants to become militarily and otherwise disengaged from the Balkans as much as possible, primarily from Kosmet (Kosovo and Metohija), while at the same time it is trying to continue dictating solutions to the local problems. Of course, this cannot happen without tensions between the United States and Russia and some disagreements with the European Union. After all, while it is somehow still possible to understand (though not to accept) that the United States considers Serbia's approach to the Kosmet problem as a measure of our country's attitude to the United States, it is practically impossible to understand that this might apply also to Russia (and China too), still less to the countries of the European Union. It is hardly likely that the United States cares more about satisfying the Albanians — against Russia's wishes — with a one-sided and arbitrary recognition of Kosmet's secession from Serbia, than it does about cooperating with Russia in dealing with the difficult conflicts with North Korea and Iran about the production and proliferation of nuclear weapons, to mention but two cases.

            I have recently spoken and written about US policy toward Kosmet being in crisis and, consequently, needing to be fundamentally reconsidered. Here is just one and quite recent illustration of the enormous contradictions that it has become bogged down in: "The United States expressed its opposition yesterday to the holding of a referendum on the independence of South Ossetia from Georgia and invited the two parties to 'find a peaceful settlement that would define the status of South Ossetia within Georgia's internationally recognized borders and give South Ossetia substantial autonomy within an indivisible Georgia.' This position was expressed by US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack." (Report published in Belgrade daily Politika, November 10, 2006). One cannot see how the United States can advocate an anti-secessionist attitude in the case of Georgia while at the same time approving of the secessionist aspirations of Kosmet. I proposed, therefore, that a study group for Kosmet should be appointed on the lines of the United States' Iraq Study Group (headed by G. Baker and L. Hamilton) and that it should be headed by B. Scowcroft and L. Hamilton (I choose Scowcroft because he knows our situation even better than Baker). This group should consult all relevant factors in our region, the UN Security Council, its envoy Marti Ahtissari, the Contact Group, the European Union, NATO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and so on, and recommend to the US authorities a new approach to the Kosmet problem. Its recommendations, of course, should be in no way privileged in the international community over those of the negotiating parties and the said organizations and institutions.

 

*****

Since what follows will be critical of EU policy toward Serbia, I wish to preclude in advance any possibility of a misunderstanding: I in no way recommend that we should try to avoid one extreme (our possible servility) by going to another extreme (our possible isolation). In other words, I am convinced that, despite its critical attitude to the policy of conditioning adopted by the European Union toward Serbia, our country should nevertheless continue to make changes in its social system in order that it should, in its own best interests, become as compatible as possible with developed and democratic Europe; this is true also of the remaining obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia [ICTY] in The Hague.

            But let me get on with the criticism. In my opinion, the policy of conditionality hits a brick wall every time it promises (or threatens) anything that is uncertain and far removed in time. In the case of Serbia, it looks like this: if it does X, it will join the European Union within the next 10 years, perhaps even much later (if it does not do X, it will not become an EU member even then). Serbia and the few other remaining countries should apparently have understanding for the fact that the European Union is incapable of adopting its own constitution, that its "integration capacities" are overextended, that some of its members will in the future be deciding about receiving new members only at national referendums, that it cannot receive new members while at the same time continuing to practically reject Turkey (this is most often suggested tacitly, since speaking of it openly would be "politically incorrect" and dangerous), and so on. It is as if the European Union were talking down to a bunch of kids: if you are good and not nasty, you will be rewarded one fine day when you are all grown up. But who cares for promises of present-day politicians and statesmen, who will be nowhere in sight, let alone in office, when the time comes to deliver on the promises.

            One should resolutely raise the question as to what right some of the EU countries have to still support the separatism of the Albanian national minority in Kosmet, while at the same time their Union is doing nothing to intervene in similar or identical problems and threats in its own member countries. These countries pretend that the European Union has legitimate authority in countries that are not (yet) its members, the same authority that it does not have in its own ranks. After all, let the leaders of these countries tell us whether there are — and what they are — any principles, standards, rules, or norms for possible secession from states, especially for national minorities, that apply in these countries, particularly when — as in the case of Serbia — the relevant territory is a "holy land" to the majority constituent Serbian nation and its identity.

 

*****

The Euro-Atlantic group of countries, headed by the United States, has done all it could to eliminate or at least considerably reduce the influence of the Russian factor in Europe, and especially in the Balkans, but this has proved unsuccessful and even counterproductive. Russia is "returning" with great force: politically, diplomatically, economically, financially, in terms of energy, investment, tourism, acquisition of real estate, and so on. This is evident also from the fact that, not only as a permanent member of the UN Security Council but as a member of the Contact Group as well, it is unavoidable in searching for a settlement for the Kosmet problem. After all, it is to be supposed that relations with such a Russia are incomparably more important to the European Union than relations with Kosmet and other Albanians.

            Already for this reason, Serbia is again gaining in importance, which is disproportionate to its intrinsic strength. After all, why should Serbia hold back from having exemplary relations with such a big power as Russia when even the United States, the European Union, and NATO are not holding back (which is why there are the permanent councils on EU-Russian and NATO-Russian partnerships and even their regular summit meetings). Of course, Russia should not be expected to do for Serbia anything that would jeopardize its own vital interests. This holds true of Serbia vis-à-vis Russia, too, of course.

            Respect for the UN Charter, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the UN Security Council's Resolution 1244, and international law in general where Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty over Kosmet are concerned is certainly not in disharmony with present-day Russia's interests. This is why it is insisting that Kosmet cannot be treated as any kind of "special case" to which the general principles, standards, rules, and norms do not apply. After all, what would be the consequences for European and global stability and order if Russia were to exempt from these principles, standards, rules, and norms the territories where Russians are the majority in the neighboring countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine and, circumventing the UN Security Council, welcomed them as its own constituent parts or at least as newly independent states!

 

 

8. SERBIAN QUESTION VS  ALBANIAN QUESTION

 

I use this formulation deliberately to stress the fact that the problem is much wider than the Kosmet problem. It is well known that, apart from Serbia, there are large Serb communities living also in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, and even Macedonia, just as there are large Albanian communities living in Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, not just Albania. I believe that few people would be surprised if an opinion poll were to reveal that a vast majority of both Serbs and Albanians want unification with their "motherlands."

            Reducing the remaining (from SFRY) nationality issues to Kosmet alone suits the purpose of those who want to treat it in a completely "unique" way instead of applying to this problem, too, the universal principles, standards, rules, and norms of international law applicable to national minorities.      

While leading Western countries are promoting a kind of universality in the treatment of the national majorities and the national minorities within their own borders (internal systems of some of them even do not recognize the concept of "national minority" at all and, consequently, of "national majority," either, but only the concept of "citizens"), they nevertheless approach the issue of Kosmet in the opposite spirit of singularity as a supposedly "unique case." Here is a chance for the critics of the Western dominant democratic-capitalist ideology and imageology to catch out its universalism in word in a glaring contradiction with the singularism in deed.

            Incidentally, some German officials and propagandists find proof of Kosmet's supposed singularity in terror practiced by Milosevic against the local Albanian community, which they mention in the same category as Hitler's crimes. But if there was ever anything in history that was unique, then without a doubt that something was Nazism with its holocaust, so that putting it in the same category with Milosevic's crimes relativizes Nazism.

            The Westerners that I am referring to are only consistently continuing the unprincipled attitude adopted as early on as the time of dismemberment of the SFRY, when they interpreted the right to self-determination "on a case to case basis" differently from one nation and republic to the next. Nobody was held to account for this politically, let alone criminally before the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague, since its mandate deliberately excluded "crimes of provoking war" as different from "crimes committed during war."

            In the said criticized manner, many Western power wielders and their representatives, officials, experts, mass media, and others are doggedly continuing to insist that Kosmet has the right to secede from Serbia, while on the other hand denying this same right to the [Bosnian Serb] Republika Srpska, ignoring in the process even the fact that Albanians are only a national minority even under international law, while Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina are a constitutionally defined state-building nation, which under the Dayton/Paris agreement legalized its distinct Republic as one of the two B-H "entities." In line with this, the West does not protest when the authorities in Albania openly support the aspiration of their ethnic kin in Kosmet for secession from Serbia, while at the same time it is easy to imagine that the Western authorities would sharply attack the authorities in Serbia if these dared to take the same attitude to the Republika Srpska! If Kosmet does in fact secede, who will be held to account for a disastrous chain reaction to this approach to the Albanian question, which is diametrically opposed to the approach to the Serbian question?

            In this connection, the accusation of "double standards" and even "multiple standards" has long become customary, but one may freely say that what we have here is a disregard for any kind of international principles, standards, rules, or norms. From the trivial ontological fact that the Kosmet case is really in some sense and up to a point different from any other case of its kind there is derived the sophistic claim that it is essentially different.

            Since there are no valid arguments to support the claim of uniqueness of the Kosmet problem, a new attempt has lately been launched, according to which it’s supposed singularity consists in the fact that this territory is practically under UN protectorate and administration. In this, it is deliberately ignored that the UN Security Council's Resolution 1244 confirms that Kosmet is part of Serbia and that Serbia has sovereignty over it. This is why it is not being denied that that Resolution would have to be changed if Kosmet were to be legally and legitimately recognized as independent.

Unfortunately, the European Union is continuing to practice singularism also by refusing to apply to the "Stabilization and association" negotiations with Serbia the guiding principle of "Status before standards," while at the same time it has turned its policy toward Kosmet completely around: from demanding "Standards before status," it went on to demand "Both standards and status," only to come practically to the position of "Status before standards". What I want to stress particularly strongly here is that it would only be common decency if the European Union admitted that the list of substantial "standards" that Serbia has unquestionably met includes: the fact that it has to a great degree discharged its obligations to the International Tribunal in The Hague for former Yugoslavia;  that few other countries would have survived as it has survived years of international isolation, sanctions, NATO air strikes, the violent wrenching of Kosmet from its jurisdiction; that through it all it carried out the peaceful regime change of 5-6 October 2000, remained stable despite the assassination of one of its two leading reformers in 2003, adopted a Constitution that has firmly laid down the foundations for further development, and even unhesitatingly opted for Euro-Atlantic integration, including an enthusiastic accession to the Partnership for Peace program with NATO, the same NATO that ruthlessly bombed Serbia for 78 days!

            Fortunately, NATO has finally begun replacing conditionality by a policy of partnership with Serbia. It is to be hoped that the European Union will do the same soon by resuming "Stabilization and association" negotiations. If it does not do so, I am afraid that those forces will strengthen in Serbia that do not believe that the aspiration for Euro-Atlantic integration should be the be-all and end-all of its foreign policy. The bloc (led by DP and DPS) that I support is not unique for its democratic character, but for its efforts for Euro-Atlantic integration of Serbia. I call it the Organization for a Democratic and Euro-Atlantic Serbia (ODES). There are no sufficient grounds for denying the democratic character of the other, rival bloc (led by SRP) as long as it respects the constitutional rules for taking power and going into opposition; it is enough to say that it is anti-Euro-Atlantic in orientation and this is what the electorate also in future should be made aware of in no uncertain terms.



[1] What follows is in essence a further elaboration of my ideas outlined already thirty-some years ago in the chapter “Dialectics of Alienation and the Utopia of De-Alienation” in my book Between Ideals and Reality (Oxford University Press, 1973), the original of which was published in Serbo-Croatian in 1969. Those ideas were further developed in the section “In the Shadow of Apocalypse” in my book Perestroika: from Marxism and Bolshevism to Gorbachev (Amherst, N.Y.; Prometheus Books, 1988). A more detailed elaboration of both outlines can be found in my books The Fall of Yugoslavia: Why Communism Failed (the same publisher, 1997) and Serbia: The Democratic Revolution  (Amherst, N.Y.; Humanity Books, 2003) as well as in my contribution “From Relative to Absolute Evil” to Predrag Cicovacki ed. Destined for Evil? The Twentieth Century Responses, Rochester Studies in Philosophy, 2004.  I would like to quote my conclusion from the earliest book: “But today the greatest and most important form of alienation is encountered not in the production of means to life, but rather the means to death. We are all witness to super-alienation: human creations are now revolving around the earth threatening not only individuals or classes, but humanity as a whole. The apocalyptic 'revolt of things' against their creator—the anthropological form of the Last Judgment—is in sight. A cynic might say that the definitive disappearance of alienation may coincide with its irreversible triumph”. (p. 34).


SOURCE: Stojanović, Svetozar. “The State of Humanity and the Transition from Communism to Capitalism.”

Note: I found this essay on an otherwise inaccessible web site. I have no further information about it. — RD


Revolutionary Teleology and Ethics by Svetozar Stojanović

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Secular Humanism—Ideology, Philosophy, Politics, History: Bibliography in Progress

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Paul Kurtz and Marxist Humanism @ Reason & Society


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