Western Ideologies up to World War II

The neo-liberal globalist society that came into being after fall of Soviet Union is now in deep crisis. Its economy is already in shatters and its international geopolitical arrangements are also tearing apart. Election results favoring Brexit and Trump in UK and USA respectively clearly show that neo-liberal order is getting challenges socially as well. US President Trump after coming to power has shown disinterest in neo-liberal economic credentials and geopolitical arrangements.
But President Trump is facing the tremendous backlash from the neo-liberal elites who are still important parts of the establishment. In the UK, the recent Parliamentary election result shows that common people are not that much against neo-liberal globalist agendas like allowing more immigrants. In France too, the victory of neo-liberal Macron against anti-neo-liberal La Pen is a sigh of relief for neo-liberals. At the same time, the defeat of all established ruling and opposition political parties in French Presidential election clearly points out people of France are not happy with the system. So from events of USA, UK and France, it can be said that grudges against the system are there, but these anti-system elements are still not united and highly promiscuous. To unite such promiscuous elements either a charismatic leader like Trump is required or we need to develop social engineering tools by studying the social dynamics thoroughly. Since New Silk Road is rising as a result of dying neo-liberal order, the former must start forming social tools to make the project successful. Else the social values of neo-liberalism will come into contradiction with rising infrastructure of New Silk Road.
Flourishing Liberalism
Neo-liberal social values were shaped by various events of previous centuries. 16th and 17th centuries saw the rise of Protestant ethics which discarded anti-usury values of Christianity. West Europeans learned to trade and were making huge profits from new sea routes discovered by skipping Old Silk Road. Money chasing began to shape the values of West Europe. After the victory of Protestant ethics and huge profits started pouring in from non-West, grounds became ideal for Liberalism to flourish. The English Glorious Revolution, the American War of Independence and the French Revolution shaped modern liberalism. The right of the property owner and right to enjoy fruits of own labor became main ideology by the 18th century. This worldview pushes society to believe that rent seeking feudal establishments are preventing individuals from enjoying fruits of own labor and also violating property rights.
Electoral democracy became a political ideology against the rule of non-elected feudal establishments. Another philosophy that became associated with liberalism and democracy was nationalism. Since different feudal lords put different tax, the market remains fragmented. So to take the advantage of single tax based single market, the nationalism was conceptualized. Rather than many feudal lords seeking different taxes, one nation state must impose the single tax for the entire nation. Hence 18th century and 19th century saw many liberal democratic nationalist revolutions across Europe targeting the feudal establishments. With the collapse of feudal establishments and feudal social arrangements, huge resources and labor were released for investing in money making activities. The guaranty to enjoy one’s own labor gave the incentive to work harder. These along with looted resources from non-Western colonies helped the West to usher in an industrial revolution. Industrial capitalism was born. With the industrial revolution, the feudal class was replaced by factory owning capitalist class and banking class as the ruling class of the Western society.
Emergence of Socialism
By the mid-19th century, the contradiction between factory owner class and working class became primary. It is then that democratic nationalist liberalism got a tremendous challenge from socialist philosophies. Socialist philosopher Karl Marx showed that all production is done by working class and machines (which are again produced by working class). So factory owners and bankers are just enjoying fruits of others’ labor just like feudal. He further added that pursuit of profit by capitalist will lead to two outcomes:
  • Automation resulting in the wage rate failing to grow as much as profit,
  • Big ownership out-competing small ownership by reaping in economies of scale.
Hence, earning the opportunity of the mass fails to grow as much as production capacity. So the demand potential falls short of supply potential. Thus the capitalist economy will fall into over-accumulation crisis. Marx further said that when crisis will start than working class will revolt against capitalists and new society will gradually usher in called communism were associated producer will no longer be alienated from production process and so the very concept of “working and payment according to ability” (on which liberal philosophy of enjoying fruits of one’s own labour breeds) falls apart. New Communist concept of “working according to ability and payment according to needs” will come. For moving towards communism Marx called for the socialization of means of production including land, factories and machines and the abolition of private property. Marx’s teachings produced deep impact in the Western world and rising working class began to spread teachings of socialism.
Communist Revolution
During First World War, socialists got their chance. Lenin organized Communist Revolution in the Russian Empire and created the Soviet Union. Lenin successfully defined a theory of Imperialism where he integrated peasant movement and freedom aspirations of colonies into working class communist movement. Thus communism starts spreading in peasant-based non-Western colonies and semi-colonies like China. Internationalism instead of nationalism became a communist slogan. This is because ruling class of different western countries were fighting each other and making colonies for their own profit in the name of nationalism. So to counter wars of capitalist ruling class, communists relied on working class internationalism. By internationalism, communists assert that working class has nothing to gain when its country is going to war for increasing profits of the ruling class.
Rise of Social Democracy as Separate Movement
By late 1920s, economic crisis shook the capitalist west and Keynesian economy starts to attack free market capitalism from lack of demand perspective. Thus Western working class adopted the Keynesian version of crisis instead of Marxist version and a new branch of working class movement social-democracy quite distinct from communists came into being. While communists under Lenin reject private ownership completely and hence electoral democracy, social-democrats of West accepted the private property and only want state ownership in key industries and state intervention to create demand. Social-democrats also upheld the virtues of electoral democracy. Being based on working class, social democrats demand internationalism too.
Fascists & National Socialists
The countries that lost or failed to gain from World War I watched the rise of fascists and national socialists. They tried to counter liberalism and socialism simultaneously. While communists and social democrats were trying to use the contradictions between working class and capitalists emanating from automation, the fascists and national socialists are trying to look into the crisis emanating from monopolization of ownership of production process among few elites. Abrahamic religious anti-banking teaching had a deep impact on fascists and national socialists. Thus they started attacking bankers (which often end up in attacking a particular community i.e. Jews) since banking draws in economies of scale which results in annihilation of small ownership. They also tried to preserve racial purity, bloodline, a family which they thought was under threat from the capitalist mode of production and also socialist philosophies.
To be continued
Next part we will show how Western ideologies changed after World War II.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.