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Total Competition or Repressive Administration of People
by Gerd Bedszent
An awareness of the monstrosities of our glorious capitalist society is the first prerequisite for thinking beyond that society.
One should always remind oneself:..The regularities of capitalist society are not laws of nature, so they can be abolished in principle. With such abolition, a new society can become possible.
Total Competition or Repressive Administration of People?
State power in times of crisis
By Gerd Bedszent
[This article is translated from the German on the Internet, EXIT! Krise und Kritik der Warengesellschaft.]

Marxism and Criticism of the State
"A curse on the king, the king of the rich, / Whom our misery could not soften, / Who extorts the last penny from us / And has us shot like dogs."

Heinrich Heine "The Silesian Weavers"

There is no such thing as a self-contained Marxist theory of the state. The forefather Karl Marx himself had admittedly dealt with Hegel's constitutional law at an early stage. For example, in an article published in August 1844 - which was mainly about the suppression of the hunger revolt of Silesian weavers by Prussian military - he wrote that even "the radical and revolutionary politicians (...) do not (seek) the cause of the evil in the essence of the state, but in a certain form of the state, in place of which they want to put another form of the state. "1 Later, Marx saw the main focus of his work in a fundamental critique of the economic foundations of capitalist society and only occasionally included in his writings remarks on the nature of the bourgeois state. After all, in his main work, Das Kapital, in connection with the original accumulation of capital, he described state power as the "concentrated and organized violence of society. "2

From a theoretical point of view, however, the situation was quite sad for anarchist masterminds. Their radical rejection of any form of state power was not underpinned by any social critique - they simply had no understanding of the foundations of capitalist society.3 This is the only way to explain the fact that in the 19th century, for example, followers of Michael Bakunin seriously believed that the abolition of the state could be achieved by a simple decree. Karl Marx's polemics against such abstruse ideas, which lasted for years, largely pushed the Marxist critique of the state, which did exist in rudimentary form, into the background. And also in the case of anarchist theorists of the recent past - for example in the case of Murray Bookchin - state power is equated with hierarchy in a grossly simplified way, the existence of economic laws within the framework of capitalism is negated.4 In the shape of partisans of anarcho-capitalism5 - basically nothing else than the radicalized wing of the liberal bourgeoisie - the initially left-wing anarchist movement has meanwhile fully arrived in the system that was once fought against.6

But let's go back to the 19th century: Friedrich Engels, friend and confidant of Karl Marx, had subjected the constitution of the British Empire as the most developed capitalist country at the time to a scathing critique in a paper also published in 1844. Large parts of the article are admittedly only of historical interest today - Engels poked fun at the early grimaces and nonsense of British parliamentarism and its jurisprudence. Still true today, if somewhat abbreviated, is his observation that the English aristocracy and crown were effectively powerless - but property ruled.7 Further, Engels called democratic equality under the capitalist system a "chimera" and concluded that "a mere democratization" of the prevailing conditions was not sufficient to "cure the social evils. "8 The struggle of the poor against the rich could not be fought "on the ground of democracy or of politics at all." This stage was "only a transition, the last purely political means which is still to be tried and from which (...) a principle transcending all political essence" must develop.9 Engels titled this principle "socialism" in the concluding sentence of his text.

Is Engels' text, then, a plea for the socialist state? Rather not. For in a rather hidden subordinate clause, Friedrich Engels had earlier come to a far-reaching conclusion: It was not individual forms of government that were imperfect and inhuman. Instead, "the state itself, as the cause of all these inhumanities, would itself be inhuman. "10

In his late work "The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State," Engels sums up his view once again: "The state is (...) not from eternity. There have been societies that coped without it, that had no idea of the state and state power. (...) The society that reorganizes production on the basis of free and equal association of producers puts the whole state machine where it will then belong, in the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze axe. "11
Abbreviated understanding of the state
"Considering that we do not trust the government / Whatever it promises / We have decided to build a good life for ourselves under our own leadership."

Bertolt Brecht "The Days of the Commune"

The year 1871 brought a decisive break in the history of nascent Marxism. In the wake of a post-war crisis, the workers of the city of Paris seized government power and were able to maintain it for a few weeks. The brutality with which the French bourgeoisie then fought back, with the approval and support of the actually hostile Prussian government, was admittedly nothing fundamentally new. But the slaughter of the victors against the vanquished went down in the history of the workers' movement as a collective nightmare. Social achievements, it was henceforth said, had to be defended at gunpoint, and this required a state apparatus of its own - with the "right" people at its head.12

Karl Marx himself had quite rightly warned against an uprising of the Parisian workers at the beginning, but then solidarized with them without any ifs or buts and denounced the murderous violence of the bourgeois government and its military. Every line of Marx's article "The Civil War in France," written on behalf of the "International Workingmen's Association," speaks of furious anger against the "Krautjunker" and "bandits" of the Versailles government - also of revulsion in the face of the victors' murders of disarmed and defenseless prisoners. Large parts of the text can thus be read as a hymn to the armed seizure of state power by Communist fighters. His famous and frequently quoted sentence that "the working class (...) cannot simply take possession of the ready-made machinery of the state and set it in motion for its own purposes "13 was usually interpreted to mean that the existing state bureaucracy had to be smashed and a new apparatus installed in its place.

In the attempts made in the 20th century to realize a socialist society, the same procedure was followed, i.e. a new, no less repressive state power was installed in place of an existing repressive state power. In the surviving first drafts of Marx's text, however, there are passages that contradict this interpretation: "All revolutions in this way only perfected the machinery of the state, instead of throwing off this killing alp. "14 "The Commune was a revolution against the state itself, against this supernatural miscarriage of society. "15

The quoted statements of Marx and Engels could have led to a far-reaching critique of the state on the part of the working-class left even in the early phase of the labor movement. Instead, socialist ideologists usually consoled themselves with the fact that a socialist state machinery was a temporary transitional society and that the creation of a classless, i.e. communist, society was the next step.16

The contradiction between a critique of the state that existed in rudimentary form and the realpolitik implementation of social measures within the framework of this state was never resolved. The modernizing dictatorships of the 20th century, which defined themselves as socialist, then claimed to be the nuclei of a society free of all the impositions of capitalist commodity economy, and subsequently took privately owned banks, factories and landed estates under state control.17

But state ownership of business enterprises, demonized today in rare unanimity by conservatives, liberals, and politically turned socialists, has always been a fully integrated and necessary part of the global capitalist system, initially more so, later less so. The liberal bourgeoisie fiercely opposed the nationalizations carried out under socialist auspices - not, however, as the nucleus of a new society, but because, in its view, they turned the wheel of history backwards. And, of course, because these state-owned economies were built into authoritative social regulations that had to be abolished at all costs.

Nationalization of enterprises, when it made sense within the framework of the system, also took place under capitalist conditions - the development of the railroad system in Germany in the second half of the 19th century is a case in point. A first memorandum on the nationalization of private railroads had already been drafted in the revolutionary year of 1848 by the liberal-dominated Auerswald-Hansemann cabinet and submitted to the Prussian king.18 However, this proposal was not implemented until decades later, after the unification of the empire, under the chancellorship of Otto von Bismarck.19 The centralization of the rail network then resulted in a surge of modernization that contributed significantly to the comparatively backward German economy's ability to catch up with that of its developed Western European neighbors.

In one of his texts, the philosopher Robert Kurz even described state ownership as "a particularly paradoxical form of private property".20 Elsewhere, he said that in the economy of the so-called real socialist states of the time, "all the basic categories of capital: wage, price and profit (business profit)" had their fixed place - as did the "basic principle of abstract labor".21

As is well known, the transition to a society free of capitalist competition and repressive human management, which socialist ideologists predicted for a distant future, did not happen - rather the exact opposite.

After 1990, the etatist-structured and extremely authority-fixated models of socialism in Eastern Europe and Asia were followed either by a wave of neoliberal deregulation, including the associated social cruelties. Alternatively, the authoritarian state bureaucracies created under socialist auspices remained largely untouched, but also threw overboard the annoying and disruptive "social clunkers" of the socialist era.

The socialist left, which had originally emerged as an emancipatory dissidence of the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie, consequently became a mere appendage of the economic liberals after the failure of the authoritarian models of socialism and thus became functionless. Its radical wing refused to follow this development. However, the deficits of leftist state theory, which had never been dealt with, meant that the majority of these remaining leftists could only imagine a return to the state apparatus's ability to act in the (strongly transfigured) Keynesian sense as an alternative to the cruelties of neoliberal economics. The fact that a state apparatus is always capable of action in principle - otherwise it would not be such - did not occur in their world of thought.

In his text "Es rettet Euch kein Leviathan," published in 2011 and unfortunately left unfinished, Robert Kurz summed up that from the very beginning "leftist theories of the state moved in circles rather than even a millimeter further. "22
Monstrous instrument
"To live in order is to starve and be maltreated."

Georg Büchner "The Hessian Land Messenger"

Classical historiography suffers, among other things, from the fact that no distinction is made between the bourgeois nation-state and feudal or pre-feudal structures of rule. States thus appear as something given by nature, as something that has somehow always been there. The differences between capital-fixated economy and the functional mechanisms of pre-modern societies were repeatedly blurred by transferring conceptualizations of modern society such as state, commodity, money and market to the entire history of mankind in a completely ahistorical way.23 This skewed view was never seriously questioned by the majority of Marxist historians. In fact, the essential difference between capitalist modernity and pre-modern societies is that the latter were not dominated by economic relations - an economy in the modern sense did not even exist at that time - but by other fetish relations.24

Is the bourgeois state apparatus, however, as it is claimed to this day by economic liberals and anarchist theorists, a relic of feudal society, which should be abolished as an obstacle to the free development of man? Marx wrote on this subject in the aforementioned draft text: "The centralized state machinery, which with its omnipresent and intricate military, bureaucratic, clerical and judicial organs clutches (entwines) the vital bourgeois society like a boa constrictor, was first forged in the times of absolute monarchy as a weapon of the emerging modern society in its struggle for emancipation from feudalism. "25

Accordingly, a clear distinction must be made between pre-modern relations of domination and the bureaucratic apparatuses of absolutist regimes. The latter were in no way opposed to the caste of rich merchants and bankers that was emerging at the time. The latter financed these state bureaucracies through taxation, which in turn represented their interests as an instrument of regulation and violence. The tax rate was and still is a simple cost factor in every calculation of capitalist business.

The bourgeois state is thus a product of the development toward early capitalism. The bloody conflicts raging in Western and Central Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries were wars of formation - from which the first bourgeois nation states emerged. Their absolutist rulers and their mostly bourgeois cabinets ultimately created the conditions for the formation of today's capitalist society with its - basically irrational - compulsion to multiply money just for the sake of multiplying money.

Karl Marx described this process in volume 1 of "Capital" as follows: "Money capital (...) was hindered from its transformation into industrial capital by the feudal constitution in the countryside, by the guild constitution in the cities. These barriers fell with the dissolution of the feudal allegiances, with the expropriation and partial expulsion of the country folk. The new manufactory was established in sea-export ports or on points of flat land, outside the control of the old town system and its guild constitution.... "26

Absolutism, then, was ultimately an alliance of convenience between late feudal rulers and the great banking and merchant houses, which were thus able to extend their influence from the networks of commercial cities then already in existence to the entire area of the nascent nation-states.27 Without the ordering hand of a state bureaucracy, bourgeois society cannot exist to this day and never will. The bureaucratic state apparatus became, as Robert Kurz wrote in one of his early works, "in its early modern, absolutist, or bourgeois revolutionary and dictatorial form, on the one hand, the midwife of the commodity-producing system, on the other, its immanent component. "28

This, of course, included the fact that the state was a suitable tool for putting down revolts of the rural population, which had become impoverished and uprooted in the course of the implementation of agrarian capitalist relations. A discipline necessary for capitalist wage labor was then beaten and tortured into the urban poverty that was swelling into masses. Karl Marx described the wage worker thus created as an "art product of modern history. "29 He commented even more drastically on this process in one of his early texts: "Thus arose the regime of workhouses, i.e., poorhouses, whose inner furnishings deter the wretched from seeking a refuge from starvation. In the workhouses, charity is meaningfully intertwined with the revenge of the bourgeoisie on the wretch who appeals to its charity. "30

Descriptions of social cruelties in the period of absolutist-structured early capitalism and in the subsequent period of the triumph of the liberal bourgeoisie are not few - also in numerous works of art and literature. But it was above all the hunger revolts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the wake of which anything at all like an awareness of the social atrocities for which the capitalist system was responsible began to emerge.

Of course, a labor-movement left did not yet exist at that time, or rather it was in an embryonic state. But even the early uprisings against the impositions of the forming capitalist society were understood by the bourgeoisie as a danger to the system, against which it was imperative to use the military. Which is what happened. During the French Revolution in the late 18th century, for example, the bourgeois revolutionary government, which had been constituted shortly before on the ruins of the absolutist monarchy, did not hesitate for a moment to use republican troops against insurrectionary movements of the Parisian poor. The (few) Convention deputies who tried to address the concerns of the starving were immediately hauled off to the guillotine after the military intervened.31

It cannot be repeated often enough: The social history of early capitalism is a history of the most brutal violence; capital saw the light of day "from head to toe, from every pore, dripping with blood and dirt. "32
Etatism and Monetarism
"As to this, you must know that for about 70 moons there have been two parties at strife with each other, the Tramecksan and the Slamecksan, so named from the low and the high heels of their shoes, by which they differ."

Jonathan Swift "Gulliver's Travels"

The political party system that dominates the existing state apparatuses by a majority is - historically - not old, formed gradually with the stabilization of capitalist relations. Its beginnings lie in England at the end of the 17th century. After the initially recalcitrant aristocracy and parts of the bourgeoisie, who initially did not understand the advantages of the new society, had integrated themselves into the newly created conditions, parts of the state apparatus increasingly appeared to be useless, bureaucratically inert, a cost factor hindering the further development of capitalism. The question of the right degree to which the state bureaucracy and repressive organs should be trimmed back became an integral part of the permanent religious war between the conservative and the liberal-minded sections of the bourgeoisie.

Representatives of the merchant bourgeoisie in the English Parliament, who advocated a gradual liberalization of absolutist conditions, formed the grouping of the "Whigs," which later gave rise to the Liberal Party. Their counterpart was the conservative court party of the Tories, which at the time sought to maintain absolutist conditions. The writer Jonathan Swift aptly glossed over these beginnings of the parliamentary system in his social satire Gulliver's Travels.

A similar system of structural permanent conflict between liberals and conservatives developed in the course of further development in all nation states. The bourgeois state as a whole, of course, was not questioned by any of the parties that emerged at the time, nor by the violence with which the military and police repeatedly cracked down on social revolts by the lower classes. Robert Kurz characterized the supposed opposition between conservatives and liberals in his 1999 magnum opus, Black Book Capitalism, as follows: "Since then, in the metier of national economic cutthroatism, the ideologies of 'equal opportunity' and reactionary (originally aristocratic) elitism, of state conservatism and economic freedom, have been vying with each other to see which doctrine produces the nastier characters and the worse consequences; this noble contest is likely to be a draw. "33

It is well known, but rarely discussed, that in the initial phase of bourgeois parliamentarism only tax-paying property-owning citizens were entitled to vote (census suffrage). At that time, therefore, there was no question of democratic co-determination by the majority of the population.34 And the tears that the liberal bourgeoisie shed and still sheds in the face of the lack of such co-determination in dictatorial modernization regimes are simply crocodile tears.

As a result of the gradual introduction of universal suffrage, the bourgeois two-party system in the late 19th century experienced a temporary addition of a third force - social democracy. After the majority of the urban lower class - disciplined by force - had submitted to the constraints of wage labor, the industrial proletariat that had thus emerged sought co-determination within the framework of the bourgeois parliamentary system. Marx and Engels, through their theoretical work and political journalism, made a not insignificant contribution to providing this emerging new political force with the necessary ideological legitimacy.

The political struggle of the workers' movement and its political arm was directed against placing the burdens of capitalist development exclusively on the poorer strata of the population. However, since the fundamental structure of commodity-producing society was not questioned by the majority of the political apparatus of the workers' movement, its struggle was limited to mitigating the social consequences of further capitalist development. The radical criticism with which Marx and Engels denounced the bourgeois state apparatus and bourgeois society as a whole, especially in their early writings, was either ignored or trivialized as a youthful sin by the majority of their epigones. Robert Kurz characterized state authoritarianism and the striving for a "repressive co-administration of capitalist imposition society" as an essential characteristic of the Marxist workers' movement, and the social democratic parties that formed out of this movement as a "profoundly state-authoritarian force. "35

In the course of further development, the existing bourgeois party system was repeatedly modified by new formations and splits; on the whole, however, the permanent conflict between conservatives and liberals remained unaffected, since each of the new political entities sooner or later aligned itself with one of the two fundamental political currents.

The permanent disputes between conservatives and liberals were always about the forms of economic governance possible within the system - i.e., whether economic processes would be controlled by authoritatively enforced guidelines (etatism) or whether they would be left to run themselves, i.e., to the pure urge to maximize profits without regard to any consequences (monetarism).

The contrast between monetarism and etatism is, however, less significant in reality than is usually portrayed - ultimately, both are forms of capitalist economic activity. A change of government usually signals a change of strategy by capital groups - either in a more etatist or in a more monetarist sense. It is true that the development of capitalism has been marked by such different phases of economic governance. But the system as a whole has never been called into question.

The conflict between total competition and repressive human management has not been fully decided until today, nor can it be. Robert Kurz described the development as a "historical wave movement, in which alternately etatism and monetarism dominate, without ever reaching the equilibrium of trouble-free reproduction: From the absolutist and revolutionary etatism of the early modern period to the Manchester liberalism and 'night watchman state' of rising industrial capital; later from the war economy etatism of the imperialist epoch to the anti-crisis state of Keynesianism and finally to the monetarist backlash and global 'deregulation', which today already seems to become obsolete again. "36

So, with the "becoming obsolete" of decades of ideologically dominant neoliberalism, are we now facing yet another shift, this time from monetarism to etatism? Can we expect a return of the Keynesian welfare state? This is precisely what is rather doubtful.
Age of cruelty
"Poverty is the last dirt / And doesn't make you wise at all / If you see one, stalk away / Don't help him, s' has no purpose / Poverty sticks like shit."

Hans-Eckardt Wenzel "Chorale of Poverty"

Capitalism has been reaching its limits for years. The expansion of the economy into further, as yet unexplored regions of our earth, practiced in the age of Fordist mass production of the 20th century, has exhausted itself; such regions no longer exist. Capitalism has become a globalized world system, i.e. permanently confronted with the global totality of its inherent contradictions.

This also applies to the long-term effects of industrial mass production on the nature of our planet.37 Climate change, to cite only the best-known example, is now considered proven and is only denied by right-wing radicals, notorious conspiracy theorists and similar lunatics. And it is unstoppable in a modern industrial society. This is mainly based on the burning of fossil fuels and there is no way to dispose of the carbon dioxide released in the process in the long term and without danger.

And also the outsourcing of waste products38 of industrial and industrially driven agricultural production as well as of particularly pronounced social cruelties to peripheral peripheral regions of our planet, which was eagerly pursued in the neoliberal phase of the last decades, had there quite "unforeseen effects" (Engels), namely the fractional collapse of the (already fragile) statehood of these regions.39 After the flight of economic enterprises from the chaotic and ungovernable regions, which were no longer useful, the inhabitants, who had lost their income, fled to industrialized states that were still functioning. There, a merciless deportation bureaucracy welcomed them in good fellowship with arsonist Nazis and other right-wing radicals.

During the dominance of neoliberalism, any kind of state intervention in economic life was considered "distorting" competition. State-owned enterprises as well as parts of the public infrastructure were - not infrequently for a mockery of money - thrown down the throat of the private sector, which immediately rationalized these new acquisitions in order to eliminate "superfluous" jobs. In this context, it should not be forgotten that the triumph of neoliberalism was inextricably linked to the technology of microelectronics. Hailed by its founders as an innovative and green industry, its introduction had severe social repercussions - among other things, it made it possible to "free up" masses of workers from the state bureaucracies and the administrations of large and medium-sized enterprises. The modernization push of the 1980s, 1990s and 1990s created new industries, but at the same time destroyed (on a global scale) many more jobs than were ultimately created.

The atrocities of the decades-long neoliberal austerity orgies need not be enumerated here; that would go beyond the scope of this article. More than 15 years ago, Robert Kurz already noted a melting away of the "Fordist fat" in the form of access to "reserves, inheritances, etc., up to the ownership of real estate" as well as a crash of the "new middle classes".40

However, the penetration of investment-hungry capital into the state-owned sector of the economy of capitalist core regions then reached its limits. The privatization of public tasks went to the substance of capitalism as a whole: together with its supposedly superfluous infrastructure, capitalism ate away at the foundations of its own value creation. And the "streamlining" of production and destruction of jobs reduced the number of consumers on top of that.

At present, the structural limit of neoliberal economic policy seems to have been exceeded. The reaching of this limit had already been foreshadowed by the so-called subprime crisis of the years 2007 to 2009. At that time, investment-hungry capital had once again formed speculative bubbles. The bursting of some of these bubbles (which this time grew to gigantic proportions) caused the global financial system to totter, and even hardened monetarists suddenly cried out loudly for the state to intervene. This promptly took place in the form of "bank rescue programs".

Seen worldwide, this intervention resulted in an immense increase in government debt. The supposed "efficiency" of neoliberal economics had once again proved to be a sham, market radicalism an ideological fraud. Once again - because such phases of state intervention have been implemented time and again in the past, even under avowedly neoliberal governments.41

State-funded recovery?
"Good thing praying and begging had not yet been declared crimes against the state."

Ngugi wa Thiong'o "Lord of the Crows"

As of 2019, the global economy is once again in serious recession. Even bourgeois ideologues are now stating a failure of the neoliberal economic model. The tremendous, unprecedented concentration of capital realized itself as an extreme social polarization into a handful of super-rich and an ever swelling number of, in the capitalist sense, superfluous miserable people. This essential result of the neoliberal economic model, however, is hardly discussed outside the remaining left - and even here mostly only in the sense of an outdated class struggle Marxism. Instead, the majority of bourgeois ideologues propagate a "New Deal," a state intervention similar to that of the 1930s, as a solution to the crisis with tiresome lack of imagination.

But in fact, as Robert Kurz wrote in one of his late texts, the march of neoliberalism was also a "state-induced program" from the very beginning. It had been the political class itself that had "launched, by means of administrative measures, that neoliberal (...) comprehensive deregulation and privatization, the so-called market radicalism and imperialism of the economy." The state had always been "in on the act" and "deregulation was nothing more than a particular form of regulation. "42 In this context, one should always remember that the first changes from the Keynesian to the neoliberal economic model were forced by the military at the time. The bloody coup in Chile in 1973 is the best-known example, but by no means the only one.

Irrespective of this, the media and printed matter are currently haunted by dreams of "an unprecedented wave of innovation and creativity, through new production methods and means of production," which could be triggered by the crisis and subsequent massive intervention by the state.43 However, these ideas are based on pure wishful thinking.

The repeatedly invoked credit-financed crisis solution of the 1930s was about an enforcement crisis of Fordism - capitalism had temporarily suffocated itself under a flood of produced but unsaleable goods in the course of the uncontrolled introduction of industrial mass production.

Unlike then, we are now dealing with a structural crisis of capitalism as a system. Even in the 1930s, the crisis was dealt with in highly different ways: The U.S. government primarily relied on a debt-financed strengthening of purchasing power in the form of social programs as well as on the expansion of public infrastructure. In fascist Germany, the crisis was simultaneously overcome by debt-financed armament. The final implementation of Fordism then culminated in the catastrophe of World War II.

The propagandists of state-financed solutions to crises either do not see through the functioning of the capitalist system or they negate it. For even if there were such a wave of economic upswing, it would again lead to massive destruction, but not to the creation of jobs. The question of how to finance such an artificially induced modernization push also remains completely unanswered. Firing up the printing press, as occasionally recommended with touching guilelessness, would very likely result in a massive increase in inflation, which in turn would be detrimental to purchasing power - in other words, it would have the exact opposite effect of what is actually intended.

However, it is indicative of the severity of the current crisis that even bourgeois economists are now no longer ruling out the possibility of a global economic crash. These fears, however, are not linked to a renaissance of radical social criticism. On the contrary, these people assume that a "real" capitalism will emerge after a global crash. In the meantime, a new profession of "crash prophets" has emerged, whose function is essentially to persuade gullible investors how they can somehow save their financial assets from the impending economic and financial crash.

And what does the remaining left think about the end of the neoliberal economic model? So far, not much. It has always interpreted so-called market radicalism as the withdrawal of the state from the economy. Protests against the impositions of this system, which do exist, but are all too rare, have therefore often been limited to demands for regulatory intervention by the state. However, the march of left-wing political activists into the state institutions they had once fought against had to remain ineffective. On the contrary, it was often social democratic-dominated governments that launched new waves of deregulation, including the associated social cruelties. Which was, of course, logical.

As Robert Kurz already stated in the 1990s in his discussion of right-wing ideologies, politics is in the end merely a "derived sphere (that) has no independent competence to intervene at all. Laws and state measures that are not in accordance with the state of development of the subjectless market process come to nothing or remain a piece of paper.

A few years later, Anselm Jappe formulated this in a similar way: "In the fetishistic commodity society, politics (...) is a secondary subsystem. It exists because the exchange of commodities does not provide for direct social relations and therefore a special sphere becomes necessary in which the general-social interests are regulated and mediated (...). Without a political authority, the market subjects would immediately proceed to a war of all against all and, of course, no one would want to take care of the infrastructures. "45

Predictably, the social-democratic and socialist party apparatuses supported and continue to support the recent swing toward state authoritarianism in anticipatory obedience. In this context, Robert Kurz should be quoted once again: "It is part of the ability to govern not to learn anything from history and to pass this talent on to one's children and grandchildren. "46

Restriction in the shadow of the virus
"Tell me, Doctor, is it true that you want to erect a monument to the dead of the plague?"

Albert Camus "The Plague"

The Covid 19 pandemic has ravaged much of our planet terribly and will continue to do so. The regions most affected are those where social conditions now defy description, where a functioning health care system either never existed or has fallen victim to the neoliberal deregulation of recent decades. However, the fear of the virus is also spreading in places where the healthcare system - albeit battered - is still functioning, for example in Western Europe. It is simple medical logic that the spread of the Covid 19 virus requires countermeasures here as well.

However, the restrictive measures against the spread of the virus were and are mostly mixed up by the executive government personnel with authoritarian attempts to cope with the economic and financial crisis. In the minds of corporate management, in turn, the crisis is realized primarily as an opportunity to profit from an expanding health care market while selectively exploiting public fear. The result is a tangle of unmanageable regulatory orders, some of which make sense, but some of which - in the long run - are likely to have catastrophic effects. This chaos is flanked by PR campaigns by competing large companies.

A large part of the population reacts to the chaotic conditions with shuddering fear of what the future may bring. The logical consequence was and is to hide under the wing of a repressive apparatus. The journalist Roswitha Scholz predicted years ago that there would be a turning away from the "great encapsulation of almost everything and everyone "47 and the return of a "messianistic-authoritarian way of thinking that promises order".48 The middle class, in particular, which has been increasingly battered by crisis capitalism, is now frantically trying to squeeze the new conditions "back into an old class scheme, even if they intend to modify it of necessity. In this, too, a moment of authoritarian identity assertion would become visible.

The sense or nonsense of anti-Covid 19 emergency ordinances has not been scientifically analyzed until today. Instead, the measures once again ignited a religious war between supporters and opponents of state restrictions. While some proclaimed that the virus could be defeated in the shortest possible time by means of authoritarian measures to the detriment of the population and selected segments of the economy, others regarded state intervention as an unacceptable attack on their (civil) freedom.

The absurdity of this religious war is that it is being waged by both sides in the name of restoring bourgeois "normality. While some claim that without the refusal of "contrarians" and "covidiots" the pandemic would have been defeated long ago and the (capitalist) society that existed before the virus would have been restored, the other side denies the sense of anti-pandemic measures altogether and demands their immediate termination.

In this context, moreover, the accusation of fascism has been and continues to be inflated. Demonstrators who opposed what they saw as nonsensical harassment by the bureaucracy called the government "fascistoid," and counter-demonstrators denounced any criticism of the government's health policy as "fascist. However, this absurdity is not surprising - an objective reappraisal of the horrors of the years 1933 to 1945 has never taken place in West German society. Robert Kurz already wrote in connection with the right-wing radical wave that boiled up in the 1990s that historical fascism: "(...) among the official postwar democrats (...) (had to) move into the rank of a hostile 'principle'; a kind of spectre in the historyless fog of modernity that could reappear at any time. "50

In any case, right-wing radical parties and splinter groups were happy about the unexpected publicity and hurried to exploit the so-called "lateral thinking" protests for their own benefit as far as possible. Their program - if one can speak of such a program at all - does not, however, amount to a critique of the capitalist system, but rather to the restoration of the small-scale statehood of the 19th century.51 The fact that the restrictions imposed by the government (closed borders, etc.) not infrequently coincide with those that the right-wing radicals themselves had demanded until recently did not seem to bother anyone in this context. Nor did anyone seem to be bothered by the fact that, on the one hand, the right-wing radicals accuse the government of killing parts of the population on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry by means of unapproved vaccines - and, in the same breath, demand an immediate end to the environmental and consumer protection measures (i.e., including drug approval) enacted by an allegedly "green" infiltrated government, since these would allegedly hinder economic growth and thus have caused the crisis.

In fact, the protests are mainly carried by members of the crisis-stricken middle class. The fact that both the economic crisis and government restrictions have had and will continue to have severe social consequences is by no means disputed here. Regardless of state support programs, many small businesses are on the verge of going out of business or have already collapsed. And the effects of the economic crisis and the pandemic on the cultural and educational sectors should definitely be mentioned in this context. In the long term, these are likely to be gruesome.

And what does the remaining left think about all this? As Robert Kurz wrote decades ago, the still existing socialist parties and the majority of extra-parliamentary organizations and groups cannot get away from their fixation on "politics and democratization" and are thus hardly capable of grasping the very ordinary capitalist reality.52 Instead of understanding the pandemic together with the confused and increasingly authoritarian restrictions of an overtaxed bureaucracy and the sometimes abstruse reactions of parts of the population as manifestations of the overall capitalist crisis, the events are interpreted as a threat to democratic conditions. The logical consequence is to crawl under the wing of an increasingly authoritarian apparatus. This part of the left therefore follows the most absurd instructions of the bureaucratic apparatus to the letter, with almost absurd devotion.

Smaller left-wing groups that oppose this orientation, on the other hand, are no less fixated on the state, only in a different way. They perceive the current repressive and authoritarian wave primarily as a threat from the state apparatus. A thematization of the crisis and its cause in the internal laws of capitalism can also be found among them at most in abbreviated approaches. For these groups, the struggle for "normality" is first and foremost a struggle to be allowed to do their "normal political work" again without hindrance.

Not uninteresting in this context: Almost ten years ago, the U.S. economist and value critic Moishe Postone, in connection with the crisis that was already looming at that time, considered the emergence of "highly militarized states" conceivable, in which the majority of the people who had become superfluous "would be kept in check with authoritarian-repressive measures".53 Whether capitalism, as Postone continued to think at that time, could survive in this way, however, might be rather doubtful. As he explained in the same interview, the crisis of 2007/2008 had already been an indication that "the expansion of labor had come to its end or was at least nearing its end. "54 There can be no such thing as a permanently stagnant capitalism, which is based on the fundamental principle of abstract labor. Capitalism is doomed by principle either to continue expanding or to eat itself piecemeal. The current duality of chaotic civil war scenarios and simultaneous "striving for blind order-making "55 is obviously an indication of the latter scenario.

As always, every crisis has winners and losers. The fact that, in the course of the so-called Corona crisis, the social differentiation of the world population has progressed further, that the huge fortunes of a handful of propertied citizens have continued to swell and are still doing so, while ever broader sections of the population are becoming poorer, is meanwhile whistling from the rooftops.56 Part of the paradoxical logic of the Corona crisis is thus that its profiteers are not at all interested in overcoming it quickly, but rather seek to prolong it. Those who do not belong to these profiteers naturally strive for an authoritarian crisis management. Whereby, as Robert Kurz wrote, "(t)he state authoritarianism (...) is only the complementary equivalent of market authoritarianism, political totalitarianism (is) only a manifestation of economic totalitarianism. "57

The attempt at repressive crisis management cannot therefore work in the long run. Progressive chaos and desperate attempts to tame it by force are now likely to alternate for an extended period. Humanity has probably never been so far away from an emancipatory society, i.e. one free of state restrictions and social cruelties, as in our brave new present.

Is there no ray of hope at all in the horror of civil war chaos and repressive crisis administration? After all, still active leftist groups in Germany revealed that even during the pandemic hospitals and clinics continued to be closed as "unprofitable," also that the staff of nursing and old people's homes is miserably paid, furthermore poorly trained and totally overworked, that many deaths attributed to the virus are actually victims of these very conditions.58 Which means that - regardless of the solidarization claimed by state bureaucracy and big media - the social cruelties and the dismantling of cost-intensive public institutions continue unabated.

However, an awareness of the monstrosities of our glorious capitalist society is the first prerequisite for thinking beyond that society.

One should always remind oneself: Even an authoritarian emergency administration is based on the fundamentals of commodity-producing economic activity, is its tool and will inevitably fall with these fundamentals. The regularities of capitalist society are not laws of nature, so they can be abolished in principle.59 With such abolition, a new society can become possible.
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