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George Orwell in the Government: The Rich Come from the Poor
In Germany as in the US, the rightwing insist poverty is not a social question and fighting poverty is not a question of money. Rather poverty is a question of attitude and therefore of one's own making. Thirty years of neoliberal restructuring gave every advantage and privilege to capital and led to exploding inequality and generalized insecurity. Different realities are painted. Falling real wages are a sign of structural improvements on the labor market!
GEORGE ORWELL IN THE GOVERNMENT: THE RICH COME FROM THE POOR
By Albrecht von Luecke
[This article published in: Blaetter, December 13, 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, ]
People have long known that “newspeak” in George Orwell’s sense flourishes in the German government. In the last Bundestag debate on the Euro-crisis and in her latest party conventions speech, the German chancellor described Black-Yellow as the “best government since the reunification” – despite all the realities.
This was seemingly put to the test. The latest Poverty- and Wealth report crowns the distortion of facts. The German government obviously acts according to the motto: If reality does not please you, then I will paint another one.
Different realities are painted – one after the other. Since their introduction in 2000, three Poverty reports were presented in 2001, 2005 and 2008 in every legislative period. A year before the end of Black-Yellow, it is high time for the Black-Yellow Poverty report. The Labor ministry of Ursula von der Leyen recently presented its draft.
In the introduction, it says very rights: “Private assets in Germany are distributed very unequally” and “the income spread has increased.” This violates “the sense of justice of the population” and endangers the “social cohesion.”
HOW ECONOMICS MINISTER “SMOOTHES OUT” THE REALITIES
All this is completely right and is not really doubted by anyone who knows the material. However this obviously violated the fine sense of justice of the economics minister Philipp Rosler who was under intense pressure. Something has to be “smoothed out” – in the best Orwellian German – according to the information of the German government.
The falling real wages are really an “expression of structural improvements” in the labor market, we read. Through creation of new full-time jobs in the law wage realm, the unemployed had work between 2007 and 2011. There was no mention that survival was impossible with these “new full time jobs” in many cases without stocking up through Hartz IV (German welfare reform combing unemployment assistance and income support that drastically educed the duration of benefits and was ruled in violation of the German Basic Law).
This Poverty Report fulfils exactly the claim of Orwellian newspeak: terms are completely unclear or even used diametrically against their original meaning so people do not know their true content any more. The goal of the exercise is manifest and can also be read in Orwell. We should all become “good thinkers” or – in Internet jargon – persons with Smiley-buttons. When we all become gullible persons, there will be “perfect governance” in the sense desired by Angela Merkel.
BAD SHOW FOR THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT
This German government could not stage a greater bad show than with its smoothed-out Poverty Report. The Poverty Report is persuasive in two regards: firstly through the completely blunt inversion or distortion of facts and secondly through the sloppy way the government deals with them. The government expressed a desire for change and claimed this was “a very normal procedure.”
The old Red-Green government was praised for its honesty when it introduced the Poverty Report. Nearly ten years ago on March 14, 2003, German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder proclaimed in the Bundestag in all brutal clarity: “We will cut benefits of the state, encourage personal responsibility and demand more work from every individual.”
And so it happened. Wages and salaries were cut considerably while capital- and assets-profit rose significantly. The Schroeder government cannot be criticized for glossing over or whitewashing. With Red-Green, people at least knew what was happening. Up to today the SPD is punished for its policy at that time.
The socially weak pay the “price of inequality,” as the Nobel Prize winner for economics Joseph Stiglitz says in his brilliant new book. What all this means concretely for people is completely excised in the contemptible government announcements. Poverty eats into this society in a way regarded impossible ten years ago.
With tremendous effects for every impacted individual, the poor are actually excluded from society. At the beginning there is the slow estrangement from friends – when one cannot afford the beer at the pub any more – and at the end the loss of human dignity and concrete exclusion from society – through loss of material foundations of existence and ultimately participation in society.
POVERTY IS MADE INTO “ASOCIALITY”
However the government does not want to know anything about these new forms of dramatic poverty. The government is by no means alone with that repression but meets with astonishing approval in society. The poverty of the growing lower class is glossed over, whitewashed and repressed in the middle class.
A great legend of one’s exploitation by the “asocial,” the provocative title of the recent book by Stern author Walter Wullenweber is one example among many, an especially chilling example.
According to this legend, there is no material poverty in Germany any more. Wullenweber’s thesis is that “the poor have enough money in Germany.” Thus poverty is not a social question and fighting poverty is not a question of money. Rather poverty is a question of attitude, of one’s neglect and therefore of one’s own making. In short, poverty is asocial and a burden for the diligent…
For a long while a lower class has existed from which the saturated middle class has massively distanced itself. Hundreds of thousands belong to this new lower class who worked hard all their lives and cannot afford a movie or theater ticket today. At the same time the supposedly exploited middle class have their theater- and opera- tickets subsidized like the autobahns and inner cities. Hartz IV recipients cannot afford autobahns for lack of cars and the necessary small change.
THE DEGENERATION OF THE SOCIAL STATE TO AN ALMS STATE
We witness the insidious degeneration or regression of the social state to the alms state. Almost nothing happens today without caritive institutions and free tables in nearly all small and large cities. Poverty has long been an overall social problem.
On the other hand Wullenweber claims poverty is merely used as a combative political term by lobbyists of the poverty scene. Wullenweber charges the poor and socially weak with asociality.
Counteracting this discrimination against the new poor is very important today. Enlightenment about the new forms of poverty not of their own making must be the first step. With its smoothed-out Poverty and Wealth report, the German government actively works against this enlightenment commission.
SOCIETY IN DISINTEGRATION
Wullenweber says: “German society is in a state of dissolution. At the lower end is a growing lower class that rejects middle class values.” In fact there is a massive erosion of society today. In truth, the good middle class society has long liberated itself from its old values of social solidarity.
An elitist attitude of the middle class – disgust toward those at the bottom – is clearly articulated in the Wullenweber resentment against the “asocial.” This old orientation in the possessive- and educated middle class that is roused again turns increasingly against solidarity egalitarianism. Today the first lesson of the new middle class drawn from the conclusions of diverse PISA and IGLU studies is: “Whoever is on top has a good chance of staying on top.” The second lesson is “Whoever is at the bottom remains at the bottom.” The middle class, deeply indoctrinated by the neoliberal logic of no alternatives and invincible practical constraints has only one preeminent goal: preserving their own living standard for their own class. The motto that follows from that is: keep a distance. In this way, the attitude of opinion makers like Wullenweber is connected to the disposition of the middle class tormented by fears of descent.
THE MIDDLE KEEPS A DISTANCE – FROM THE BOTTOM
Others go a step beyond Wullenweber in their struggle against the “asocial.” In his battle against the leveling supposedly dominating everything, the radical-liberal journalist Andre Lichtschlag concludes: “Asocial persons dependent on the state instead of independent persons are the result of the all-embracive social state.” The consequence of this tyranny of the lazy majority is the “certain way into totalitarianism.” In Lichtschlag’s eyes, only one thing helps against this horror: “taking away the right to vote from all net state profiteers, officials, politicians, unemployed and pensioners since their growing majority voters down all persons who are still productive.” The motto behind this is clear: “Dare less democracy” – from a system of proportional representation to census – or class franchise.
In this way, the legitimation of an increasingly crass inequality by the most radical representatives of a new radical neoliberal bourgeoisie is connected with the struggle against democracy and the universal franchise. At the end, there could be a two-fold exclusion of the “asocial”: namely of democracy and the social state. The re-feudalization of society could be carried out once and for all.
Considering these tendencies, it is a special irony of history that the new division of society has now come to the central institutions responsible for democracy and justice. Clerical staff who work as subcontracted workers in the German Bundestag earn so little that they are partly on the Hartz IV level. Thus the new misery has returned to its old place of origin.
Wolfgang, December 18, 2012
… The middle class has not yet understood the upper class will make a lower class out of the middle class. The redistribution from bottom to top has unfortunately also imperiled the middle class but very few have noticed this…
Maximus, December 18, 2012
… The middle class (to which I include myself) slogs away idiotically to not fall into the lower class and mostly votes for the DIE LINKE (Left) party… The problem is the capital-bearing class. In my environment, there are some people who never worked in their life but live much better than most people in the middle class merely from interests…
Felix Schwarz, December 17, 2012
The Poverty report is nothing but a sad reflection or bad show of our “Black-Yellow Horror government”!!!!
Peter Wolf, December 17, 2012
… The middle class is prosperous and could be in solidarity with the “miserable.”
We live in the dictatorship of capital which is manifested more openly and more unmasked from day to day.
From the dictatorship of capital to a “pure” dictatorship seems to be only a small step. The preparation includes: domestic deployment of the German army, intensification of surveillance techniques, stigmatization and incitement of certain population groups without lobbies, war-mongering outwards, synchronized media, secret service monitoring, slandering and marginalizing political opposition, weak resistance of unions, churches and other social organizations against social injustices, assignment of scapegoats and so forth.
Only one who is a profiteer paralyzed by fear in looking at the wide-awake drives of the neoliberal clique or one who closes his/her eyes can ignore these ever-stronger alarm signals. Greece is the beginning of the end of the Euro-zone. That is my fear. Modern war is carried out by the financial markets…
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Translator’s note: Happy Martin Luther King Day! The state has a social nature and can't be only a power and security state. The social state seems to have capsized into the activating or punishing state. Thirty-years of neoliberal restructuring gave every advantage and privilege to capital and resulted in generalized insecurity, mistrust, privatization, deregulation and currency speculation. Workfare was devised to decimate the welfare state and has proven a dehumanizing failure. Labor problems of today cannot be solved with methods of another era! All people should share in the gains of technology and increased productivity!
“The Future of the Welfare State,” 2010, Ireland: