Failed states: life in collapse

The disintegration of the capitalist world system has been going on for a long time, it is just not perceived as such

Now, the facade that the iraqi state has so painstakingly maintained in recent years is also collapsing. While the city of mosul, with its population of over a million, fell into the hands of the "army" the stone-age islamists of isil and kurdish militias occupied the metropolis of kirkuk (jihadist blitzkrieg), the u.S. And iran are threatening renewed military intervention in the country in disintegration (iraq: will the u.S. Intervene militarily??).

Iraq’s incipient state collapse leaves a huge "post-state" the result is a region that is sinking into unstructured despotism and tyranny (anomie), with competing militias and gangs fighting for power and resources. This seems to be the sad result of the "arab spring", which only a few years ago seemed to herald a democratization of the entire region.

The arab spring, in the course of which many of the authoritarian regimes between tunis and damascus were overthrown or shaken to their foundations, has long since given way to a black autumn of decay and reaction. In addition to brutal authoritarian restoration (egypt) and fragile democratization (tunisia), the mass uprisings in tunisia, libya, yemen, egypt and syria have contributed above all to the irreversible weakening or dissolution of state structures. In the west, people have long resorted to terms like that of the "failed state" back – originally reserved for sub-saharan africa – to help frame the chaos unfolding in much of the arab world.

There was talk of failed states on the occasion of this most recent disintegration process in iraq:

From the eastern mediterranean to almost the caspian sea, a corridor of broken states and terminally ill nations is emerging. Iraq is now, with its army alone, which has so far deserted in every serious case, on a straight path to the "failed state". The coarse, old syria right next to it looks like a country without a future, a cradle of future hatred, a festering wound. On the iraqi-syrian border, that murderous caliphate is emerging which, in the worst case, will develop into a no-man’s land populated by obscure tribes and terrorists and already resembles the "tribal areas" of pakistan, in which no state power applies.

The diagnosis "failed state" – which actually explains nothing – is now routinely exhibited when the consequences of the processes of disintegration in the periphery of the capitalist system are to be described. The washington times, for example, warned as early as the beginning of september 2013 that syria, too, was becoming a "failed state" threatened to become the "safe haven for terrorists" should not form another "divine intervention" in the country, which is already fragmented along ethnic and religious lines. Since the beginning of the civil war "the national identity has disappeared. The burgers now identify with the government or the rebels, with the alevis, the sunnis or the shiites…" syria meanwhile "a glorified mirror of the current situation in libya" where there is no longer a central government. Libya is dominated by militias and warlords, who are "use force to conquer and hold territory has been in danger of."

A similarly gloomy assessment of the upheaval in the former western state was also delivered by the british independent. Barely two years ago, shortly after the fall of gaddafi, philip hammond, the secretary of state for defence, had called on british businessmen, "to pack their bags and fly to libya to participate in the reconstruction and the anticipated commodity boom". But now the government in tripoli has "has lost control of most of the country to militiamen", so that the demand for people to pack their bags and move to libya has come to an almost complete standstill. Again and again, militias occupied parts of libya’s oil infrastructure in order to assert their particular interests.

Iraq, too, has long been a zombie state, a battleground for countless competing groups that have formed along religious or ethnic divides. In mesopotamia, even before the current offensive of the islamists, a permanent low-intensity civil war was taking place, which only receives little attention in this country because the countless attacks and massacres have had a dulling effect on the media, which – also in view of the everyday mass murder in syria – can only be overcome in the case of bestial acts of terrorism.

The renowned american magazine foreign affairs gave the u.S. Occupation policy in iraq a damning report back in 2012. In the article "the iraq we left behind", which appeared a few months after the withdrawal of the last regular u.S. Combat troops from the battered country, painted a picture of arbitrary, "saddled with corruption and brutality" iraqi power structures, in which "political leaders using security forces or militias to suppress opponents or inculcate the population". While the iraqi state is unable to provide even the most basic needs of the population, such as water and electricity, very high levels of youth unemployment mean that the iraqi people have no access to the services they need "criminal gangs and militant factions" still had no worries about recruits. Foreign policy also sees iraq "close to a failed state".

"Failure of modernization" in the global south

It is obvious that several arab states are on the verge of drifting into anomic conditions similar to those already prevailing in afghanistan, somalia and large parts of sub-saharan africa. Why "fail" these states? Why the arab spring, which was associated with high hopes for democratization and modernization of the fossilized arab regimes, is drowning in chaos and anomie in several countries?

The present upheavals are only the latest stage in a long-term process: the failure of capitalist modernization in the tricontinent. In the global south after decolonization, the state was the power-political-organizational form in which the catch-up modernization of these regions was to be accomplished. In a massive show of force, most of the regimes of the "developing countries" catching up economically with the centers of the world system. They attempted, by means of mostly credit-financed investment programs, to develop a goods-producing industry, indeed a national economy, which often existed only in rudimentary form in the newly independent countries as a remnant of the colonial plunder economy.

This strategy of "imported modernization" – the development of the third world, which was pursued by almost all development regimes regardless of their geopolitical and ideological orientation, failed on a broad front at the latest in the second half of the 1970s. Century. The developing dictatorships of the "third world" failed to accumulate the masses of capital to build up a competitive industry that had enabled it to survive on the world market in the 1970s.

The permanent competitive increase in productivity in capitalist commodity production, which is reaching its systemic limits in the current world crisis and is causing a "abundant humanity" the increase in the number of prisoners produced also brings about a tendency to increase the capital intensity of commodity production. The higher the general level of productivity in a given branch of production, the greater the capital expenditure necessary to compete in that branch of industry on the world market. The regions that can no longer withstand this market-mediated race fall out of the world market for advanced commodity production. That is why the crisis of the capitalist world system eats its way from its periphery – where the ability to invest was particularly low – to the centers in a historical process that has lasted for decades.

With the outbreak of the crisis period of the so-called stagflation from 1973 onwards, the economies in the global south therefore turned into investment ruins, which could not withstand the increasing world market competition. From the 1980s onward, during the respective debt crises, this "failure of modernization" in the global south, in the wake of which socio-economic collapses have set in in many regions. Without a significant economic basis, however, the state, which is not opposed to the market but is also a – necessary – historical product of capitalism, will ultimately perish.

A national state machinery can only remain functional if there is a reasonably functional national economy that finances the state apparatus through tax expenditures. As soon as this economic foundation of the state breaks away, the state apparatus also goes over into disintegration; it becomes "goes wild", itself becomes the prey of a few rackets who use it to achieve their particular interests – with exclusion of competing groups.

This is paradigmatically illustrated by the conditions in the "pre-revolutionary" libya or syria, where individual power cliques or religious-ethnic groups (alewites, ghaddafi’s clan) occupied the power centers in order to serve their clientele. The peripheral states represent only feral dummies of failed state-capitalist modernization efforts, releasing their inherent anomic centrifugal forces at the slightest push.

The gangs, who are now openly plundering, have already seized the state apparatus, which is not considered to be "idealistic total capitalist" the government’s role was not to act as an instrument of power, but only to enforce the particular interests of the ruling networks. That is why these state dummies collapse so effortlessly in the face of western interventions; and that is precisely why the intervening powers no longer manage to control these territories and provide an effective "regime change" to be performed. The last major military interventions of western crisis imperialism – from afghanistan to iraq to libya – have all proved to be colossal failures for the major powers involved, which were already reaching the limits of their ability to intervene because of the deepening debt crisis in the centers of the world system.

The current erosion processes are thus only the latest thrust of a fundamental crisis of the entire capitalist world system, which is eating its way from the periphery into its centers in a process that has lasted for decades. A few years after the collapse of the catch-up modernization in the "third world" the state-socialist countries ultimately failed to implement the third microelectronic revolution, which required a far greater investment effort. The most recent thrust of this fundamental crisis of the world capitalist system has hit the arab world and large parts of southern europe, where youth unemployment is now as high as in tunisia, syria and egypt. The "islands of prosperity" of the "first world" are melting away, while your early capitalist-like pauperism is spreading in southern europe.

"There are no chances for us"

The causes of this systemic crisis, in which capital, by means of permanent, competitively mediated advances in productivity, gets rid of its own substance – value-creating labor – and thus loses out to the "inner barrier" many refugees have understood far better than large sections of german journalism, for example, which still do not want to see any historical dynamics in capitalism, but rather the eternal return of the same old thing:

What is the use of a union if no one has a job? We had no problems with employers, because we had no employers. We had problems with the free market, with the handler mafia, of which we were a part, and with the secret police, which has everything in syria under control.

This is how the syrian refugee mohammad a described his life. In the magazine konkret 36 his precarious living conditions and the brutal struggle for survival on the fiercely contested black market of daraa, on which "for lack of legal jobs almost every family" the syrian refugee mohammad a tried to make a living in mafia-like structures – until at some point the boiling point was reached that led to a blind uprising. "If i had a job, i wouldn’t even be in this seat here. There is no chance for us", in early 2013, a teenage protester explained to the los angeles times his motivation for fighting the security forces every day in cairo’s tahrir square. Many demonstrators were "protest because they had nothing else", headlined the la times. The unbearable contradictions of the capitalist cycle, in which people lose the only way to make a living inherent in the system through wage labor, thus drive people into rebellion.

In its systemic crisis, capitalism produces a literal "abundant" mankind, which even in the areas of collapse, in the regions of economically scorched earth, continues to be exposed to the terror of the world market, without being able to offer anything for sale on it. And, of course, this crisis-induced production "abundant" the population groups, even in the centers of the world system, have been used. For a long time, entire districts or regions have also been formed in the eu, in which the "" are being pushed away by means of gentrification. Through the riots that shook great britain in 2011, the riots that regularly break out in the french suburbs, or the riots in stockholm last may, a steadily growing population group that is largely excluded from social life is also articulating in europe its growing anger and despair over the precarious lives it is forced to lead in the sprawling ghettos that function as human dumping grounds for the struggling capitalist machine.