‘Occidental Despotism’ by Gianfranco Sanguinetti
By Gianfranco Sanguinetti
We are sharing, with many thanks to the author, this English translation of an important article written in April 2020.
The conversion of the Western representative democracies to a completely new form of despotism has, on account of the virus, assumed the juridical features of a force majeure (in jurisprudence, as is well known, force majeure is a case of exonerated responsibility). And so the new virus is at the same time both a catalyst for the event and a distraction for the masses through fear. (1)
For all the hypotheses I have put forth, since my book On Terrorism and the State (1979), regarding the manner in which this conversion (ineluctable, in my eyes) from formal democracy to despotism would be made, I must confess that I never imagined it would happen on the pretense of a virus. But the ways of the Lord are truly infinite. As are those of Hegel’s cunning of reason.
The sole reference, it can truly be said, as prophetic as it is disturbing, is one I found in an article by Jacques Attali, former boss of EBRD [European Bank for Reconstruction and Development], written for L’Express during the epidemic of 2009: (2)
If the epidemic becomes a little more serious, which is possible, since it is transmittable by humans, it will have truly planetary consequences, both economic (the models suggest a loss of three trillion dollars, that is a 5% drop in global GDP) and political (due to risks of contagion). It would therefore be necessary to establish a global police force, a global stockpile, and therefore a global fiscal policy. We would then—much sooner than economic reasons alone would have allowed—come to establish the basis for an actual global government.
The pandemic was thus already envisioned: how many simulations were run by the major insurance companies! And by the protective services of the states. Just few days ago former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown again returned to the need for global government: “Gordon Brown has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.” (3)
One hardly need add that such an opportunity can be either seized or created; it makes little difference in the end. Once the intention is there and the strategy is drawn up, all one needs is a pretext and to act accordingly. Among heads of state no one was caught off guard, or only right at the start, by foolishness of some sort or other. From Giuseppe Conte to Orban, from Johnson to Trump, etc., as crude as they are, all these politicians quickly realized what the virus was authorizing them to do with the old constitutions, laws, and rules. The state would of necessity pardon any illegality.
Once terrorism, which (one will agree) had been somewhat overly abused, had used up most of its potential, so well deployed for the first fifteen years of the new century, the moment had come to move on to the next phase, as I announced in 2011 in my text From Terrorism to Despotism.
Moreover, the counterinsurgency approach adopted immediately and everywhere in what is improperly called the “war on the virus” confirms the intentions underlying “humanitarian” operations in this war, which is being fought not against the virus, but against the rules, rights, guarantees, institutions, and peoples of the old world. I am speaking here of the world and institutions that have been established ever since the French Revolution and are now disappearing before our very eyes in the span of a few months, just as quickly in fact as the Soviet Union disappeared. The epidemic will end, but not the measures, possibilities, and consequences it has unleashed, which we are now only beginning to experience. These are the birth pangs of a new world.
We are witnessing the decomposition and end of a world and a civilization, that of bourgeois democracy with its parliaments, its rights and powers and counter-powers. These are now completely useless, since laws and coercive measures are dictated by the executive branch without being immediately ratified by parliaments, where judicial power, and thus the power of free opinion, loses all semblance of independence and hence its function as counterbalance.
Peoples are thus brusquely and traumatically conditioned (as Machiavelli established: “injuries should be inflicted all at once, that they be less savored.”). The citizen having long ago disappeared in favor of the consumer, the latter now finds himself reduced to the role of simple patient, over whom one has the power of life and death, upon whom one can administer any kind of treatment or withhold it, depending on age (productive or unproductive) or any other criterion, arbitrarily decided and without the right of appeal, at the discretion of the caregiver or of others. Once imprisoned at home or in the hospital, what can he do about coercion, abuse, arbitrariness?
The Constitutional Charter has been suspended, in Italy for example, without raising the slightest objection, not even from the supposed “guarantor” of its institutions, President Mattarella. Having become mere monads, anonymous and isolated, subjects no longer have any “equality” to claim or rights to assert. Law itself will no longer be normative, but is already becoming discretionary, like life and death. We have seen that, on the pretext of the coronavirus, 13 or 14 prisoners can be killed with impunity and at the drop of a hat in Italy without so much as their names being given, or their crimes, or the circumstances, and no one seems to care. They are doing an even better job than the Germans at Stammheim Prison. They should admire us, at least for our crimes!
The only thing people talk about any more is money. And a state like Italy is reduced to begging the necessary capital for the transition from democratic to despotic forms at the hands of the sinister and illegitimate Eurogroup 16. The same Eurogroup that in 2015 ferociously wanted to expropriate the entire public patrimony of Greece, including the Parthenon, and transfer it to a fund situated in Luxembourg under German control. Even Der Spiegel described the Eurogroup diktats as “a catalog of atrocities” for the humiliation of Greece, and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in The Telegraph that, if you wanted to assign a date to the end of the European project, this was it. So behold, the deed is done. All that remains is the Euro, and even that is highly provisional.
Neo-liberalism has had nothing to do with antiquated class struggles, it does not even remember them, thinks it has expunged them from the dictionary itself. It believes itself to be all-powerful, which does not mean that it is not afraid of them, since it knows very well what it is preparing to inflict on the people. It is obvious that people will soon be hungry, obvious that there will be mobs of unemployed, obvious that people working under the table (4 million in Italy) will have no support at all. And those whose work is tenuous, who have nothing to lose, will start to engage in struggle and sabotage. This explains why the strategy in response to the pandemic has above all been a strategy of preventive counterinsurgency. We will see some nice examples of that in America. The FEMA camps will soon be full.
There are thus at least two powerful reasons to impose the new despotism in the West: one is to contend with the domestic subversion it provokes and expects; the other is to prepare for foreign war with a designated enemy, which is the oldest form of despotism in history. Nothing new has been learned on that score since The Book of Lord Shang (Fourth century B.C.)—a book all strategists of the Occident should hasten to read with the greatest attention. If they have decided to attack Chinese despotism, they should begin by proving they are better on its own terrain, that is to say more effective, less costly, and better performing. In short, a superior form of despotism. But that remains to be proven.
Thanks to the virus, the fragility of our world appears in the full light of day. The game now being played is infinitely more dangerous than the virus and will cause far more deaths. Yet contemporaries seem not to be afraid of anything but the virus …
It would seem that the present age has been given the task of contradicting what Hegel said apropos the history of philosophy: “World history is the progress of the consciousness of freedom.” But freedom itself exists only insofar is it is in conflict with its opposite—he adds. Where is it today? While in France and Italy people denounce those who do not obey?
If a mere microbe sufficed to plunge our world into obedience to the most repugnant of all despotisms, this can only mean that our world was already so ready for this despotism that a mere microbe sufficed.
Historians will call the time that is now beginning the age of Occidental Despotism.
1. I see that Edward Snowden has arrived at the same conclusion in an interview that was published on April 10, 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5OAjnveyJo
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2020 at 6:05 pm and is filed under Social Control.