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After Capitalism

by Ernst Hellmann
African socialism & the Common Good economy are discussed.
In view of the problems we face in our society today, triggered by the striving for power of the elites leading to social inequality, environmental destruction & corporate greed, there are good reasons to practice the common good economy as an alternative & sustainable economic model more strongly worldwide.
After Capitalism

A majority now understands that the prevailing economic system is a dead end - but viable alternatives are in short supply. Book excerpt from "Fear and Lies."

We want to get away from what we have known so far - only: where do we want to go? The two dominant economic doctrines of the 20th century, communism and capitalism, have both proven - each in its own way - to be unworkable. In the case of the latter, it took a little longer for the penny to drop for many in the West. Now the pressure of suffering is growing, and a search movement has begun. What could follow capitalism, which has long dominated everything? We don't like jumping into cold water when there is no saving shore in sight. On closer inspection, however, there is no real shortage of interesting alternative economic models - they are just still too little known on a broad scale. The author presents two of them in this article. One of the economic experiments takes us to Africa, the other was conceived close to home.

by Ernst Heckmann

[This article posted on 8/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

There are many good ideas and concepts for a world economy contrary to capitalism. But what does not exist to our knowledge is a plan to implement these ideas. Influential forces oppose everything that threatens the function of capitalism, although it would be quite obvious to the overwhelming majority of people if this system were replaced by a humane one.

The question of what can be learned from the experiences of political parties, social movements and people's political involvement to date, and whether a plan for exiting capitalism can be derived from them, is quickly answered: Power structures have developed in political parties, not only in this country and influenced by economic interests, that do not question the status quo. Social movements are opaque, some are politically controlled, others instrumentalized and, as soon as they pose a threat to the rulers, infiltrated, discredited and dissolved.

Nevertheless, there are current ideas on how to organize a society, how to organize politics and how to organize economy on a global level, not capitalist, but peaceful, just and with participation of all.

Past attempts to create a socialist society under the banner of communism have largely failed. This path, chosen at the time by some countries and organized with the help of the party and the state, has proved to be an aberration. Very quickly, due to the lack of structural limits on power in parties and state administrations, power circles developed, which made the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat postulated by Karl Marx absurd. Ultimately, it led to a dictatorship of the proletariat representatives. This path certainly does not invite repetition. We will have to go a different direction.

Before we deal with the utopia of a different social order on a global scale, we have to take a closer look at man, the nature of his being and his characteristics.

Man is to be seen as a being whose personality encompasses a broad spectrum. Simplified, we could say that the positive and negative attributes of his disposition correspond to his natural nature.

There are a number of human characteristics that are more useful than others for living together in community, with some characteristics even considered harmful. It is essential to note that good and evil are man-made categories. They could also be called human interpretations. Accordingly, good or evil are concepts that are described very differently depending on one's view and worldview.

Since our world view is malleable depending on conditioning, it is also not surprising that there is so far no universally valid good-evil evaluation. Due to culture, religion and philosophy, good and evil have very different meanings. We do not want to go into this further, but look at human characteristics that show what unites us. Trust-building, appreciation, cooperation, solidarity and sharing, for example, are such unifying elements.

It is clear to almost everyone relatively quickly that the social order surrounding us and our own environment shape the human being. Someone who grows up in a peaceful, non-violent environment, where everything is available in abundance, has a different picture of life than someone who grows up in a society marked by continuous war, death, misery, lack and violence. Accordingly, a political-economic order that isolates people from one another, that emphasizes competition and rivalry, that propagates market-driven self-optimization, and that permits social participation only in exchange for money and more or less unfree wage labor, will promote human characteristics that are less social.

Man then appears as a fundamentally egoistic being. And, of course, egoism is characteristic of man. It is, after all, an evolutionarily sensible trait. But he can also be extremely selfless. So selfless that he harms himself. He is also empathic, solidary and cooperative. The spectrum is wide in many directions.

In designing a better world than the present one, the main thing is to devise a system which, for living in community, promotes the positive human qualities and restrains the negative ones, for example, preventing the urge to power by making it impossible to accumulate power and promoting cooperation. The entire global economic system needs to be reoriented.

7.1 African socialism

There has been a remarkable attempt in the past, contrary to the prevailing capitalist economic order. Tanzania's first president, Julius Nyerere, achieved the long-awaited independence in 1961, after almost 80 years of colonial occupation by Germany (1890 to 1918) and England (1920 to 1961), partly through his political participation. He is still considered the father of the nation today.

After his appointment, Nyerere immediately advocated peaceful social change. Neither capitalism nor European socialism, Nyerere said, could be the basis for a just society. The African socialism he helped develop was not a political power construct, but a social order oriented toward the common good. The ultimate goal was to produce a just and happy society.

The Internet magazine Multipolar, whose focus is on politics, society and media criticism, published a remarkable report on African socialism under Julius Nyerere in June 2022. In it, it is described that for Nyerere, the foundation of African socialism is the family common sense of ujamaa. Socialism, like democracy, is a state of mind. For in a socialist society, it is the socialist mindset, rather than rigid adherence to a particular political scheme, which ensures that people strive for mutual well-being. In the report we learn that the original meaning of the Swahili word Ujamaa is, let us all work together, which is very close to the image of a functioning Nyerere socialist society.

Social life should not be determined by an elitist ruling political apparatus, but by the people themselves.

He rejected Marxist class thinking because it was not part of African culture. One could not regard one class as one's brothers and another as one's natural enemies. The basis and goal of African socialism, Nyerere said, is the extended family, to which all people in the world ultimately belong-as members of an ever-expanding family.

From its traditional heritage, a modern African socialism could understand society as an extension of the basic family unit. However, the idea of the social family should not be limited to that of the tribe, nor to that of the nation. Political and social systems based on division, oppression and exploitation are in irreconcilable contradiction to this: socialism implies fair distribution by its very nature.

In addition, the organization of society must be such that no one need worry about what will happen to them tomorrow, in the event of natural disasters, famine, illness, unemployment or other loss of wealth, because society always takes care of its members. This safeguard, he said, is deeply rooted in traditional African society.

Nyerere saw the essential features of a capitalist society in the unequal distribution of wealth based on oppression and exploitation, in non-performing incomes such as interest or rental income, in the greed for profit to gain power and prestige, and in the concept of economizing land. An imbalance of wealth that produces millionaires and billionaires in societies can only be based on exploitation. A millionaire or a feudal lord are both beneficiaries and exploiters of the skills and entrepreneurship of others.

If a member of society acquires more than thousands of his fellow citizens together, then this cannot be based solely on greater intelligence or harder work. The greed for profit, or the desire for gain, as he put it, in order to attain power and prestige, was unsocialistic and would often corrupt the owners.

At the same time, he said, it would awaken in them the need to surpass and distinguish themselves from their fellow citizens in every way, making the contrast between their wealth and the relative lack in the rest of society practically the basis for enjoying their wealth.

This would set in motion a spiral of personal competition that would be harmful to society. The need to accumulate private wealth, he says, must be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the social system. Nyerere goes on to say that African socialism does not need a distinction from other systems for its definition. It does not define itself as the antithesis of an image of the enemy, but rather includes the enemies in its order-through the unifying attitude of Ujamaa. At the center of economic activity, he said, was the satisfaction of people's needs and not the pursuit of profit, wealth and power.

Despite all his vision and achievements, his policy of African socialism was marked by failures and defeats. As a non-aligned state that wanted to stay out of the Cold War and go its own African way, Tanzania always found itself between the stools of the powerful. For this reason, Nyerere's African socialism failed in international politics, both in the West and in the East. Nor was his goal of economic independence and self-reliance achieved during his tenure, which lasted nearly a quarter century.

Can the world learn anything from African socialism as envisioned by Julius Nyerere? Is it even willing to learn anything from Africa? For Africa itself, its introduction would be a return to its own cultural heritage, albeit in a modified form, because today's world is a different one than it was 60 years ago.

And for the West, which is dominated by capitalism? In the current economic order, the crisis is an inseparable component. It is inherent in the system. At the end of a cycle, the markets are largely saturated, growth as demanded by the system is no longer possible, and the monetary system eventually collapses. The consequence of these cyclical crises was economic collapse, accompanied by devastating global wars, which sometimes led to a change of hegemonic powers. Currently, the world is again at the end of such a cycle - in the midst of a global crisis brought about with full intention.

At this time, African socialism can provide us with food for thought that will open our minds to leaving behind orders based on abstract political constructs and building a genuine social society instead.

In the words of Nyerere:

The realm of the family, to which we all belong and as we imagine it, still needs to be expanded - beyond the tribe, the community, the nation or even the continent - to include all of humanity. This is the only logical consequence of true socialism.

7.2 Alternative Social Order - The Common Good Economy

There are a whole range of designs, utopias and ideas about a very different global social order based on principles other than capitalism. The really interesting thing is that through the alternative ideas of a future society, core elements stand out, a community built on cooperation rather than competition, with an orientation towards need rather than profit, with the limitation of power rather than limitless accumulation. A peaceful world that excludes war.

A core element could also be complete freedom from domination. The absence of domination does not mean having no organization. Of course, a human society also needs some order; a system is essential.

With a system that limits power, it is natural to focus the structures of organization on the local community. A system of local councils for self-government could thus become another core element.

Further, production and distribution according to people's needs could also be a central building block. Securing the basic needs of all people is, of course, also part of this. And still another important, probably the most important core element: Restriction of power in every form, connected with the limitation of personal property. Because it should be no more than the little house with a garden and the things on it and in it.

We think that the more concrete designs of another world are important for getting an idea of the future. There are certainly many, many more ideas waiting to be discovered. They can all enrich the discussion about the imperative need for change. In this way, a fictional picture of a different, future world is created.

The described core elements from the different drafts point to a future-oriented economy, which we already presented in 2019 in our book The Abused Planet. This is the common good economy, described by Austrian university lecturer and scientist Christian Felber in his outstanding 2018 book. In 2010, Felber introduced the concept of the common good economy, which he developed with a number of Austrian companies.

This form of market economy rewards action oriented toward the common good, so that entrepreneurial motives and goals are guided away from profit orientation and competition toward striving for the common good and cooperation. This is because common good enterprises see human dignity, solidarity, cooperation, trust-building, responsibility and appreciation as core values of economic activity and share these values with other pioneer enterprises of the common good economy. The more socially, ecologically and democratically companies operate and organize themselves, the more positive their balance sheet.

Of course, in addition to the economic level, the political and social spheres also play an important role. Common good economy companies should not only be interested in their own economic advantage, but also take responsibility for nature, people and coexistence. As an incentive for this, the common good economy envisages rewarding companies with a high common good balance sheet - for example, with tax benefits, favorable loans, special subsidies or preferential treatment for purchases from the public sector.

Current research shows that this form of economic activity is very compatible with human nature. The common good economy, as defined by Christian Felber and the pioneer companies, is based on precisely those values that also make interpersonal relationships successful.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 companies and organizations in German-speaking countries alone that operate according to this model, and the number is growing worldwide. In an article, the international press agency Pressenza succinctly summarizes this economic model for the benefit of all, including the environment. According to Pressenza, the principle of the common good economy has also arrived in universities, science and, above all, politics.

In view of the problems we face in our society today, triggered by the described striving for power of the elites, which visibly leads to social inequality, environmental destruction and corporate greed, there are good reasons to practice the common good economy as an alternative and sustainable economic model more strongly worldwide.

The fact that banks, health insurance companies, businesses and municipalities are already taking up the idea and successfully implementing it clearly shows us that this ethical economic model is capable of successively and thoroughly replacing the still prevailing capitalism. It is inevitable, and also not tolerating any further delay, that humanity leaves the path of destruction and finds and walks a path of peace, mindfulness, preservation of life and love.

We join the opinion of the wonderful Jean Ziegler, who has been fighting for a just world for decades. Ziegler reviewed the idea and system of the common good economy, which Felber published in his book:

The Common Good Economy by Christian Felber is the smart, useful answer to the great social suffering that the oligarchs of globalized finance capital have brought upon the world. A great, important book!

We are convinced that the economics described is an outstanding answer to the question of the way to a different system. Yet it is by no means the only solution, only one that is potentially possible. Through the multiple ideas of a different world, a clear target picture appears, encouraging us to start this indispensable journey. - The right time to act is always now!

With the consolidated conviction that another world is possible, our report on the fear and the lie comes to its end. However, this other future, peaceful and non-violent world needs radical changes as preconditions. The present world rulers will not give up their power completely voluntarily and selflessly. Systemic resistance resulting from conflicting interests is to be expected. In any case, it will help not to lose sight of the goal, but to pursue it unswervingly. In this context, the path of nonviolence is the appropriate means in two respects. It would be a contradiction that can hardly be resolved and an erroneous path if the way to a world that is pacified on all sides were a violent one.

In addition to the following conclusion, under Future Prospects, we will point out ways to finally free ourselves from the pathological individuals and their organizations who see themselves as the elites of humanity. If you consider the orgies of violence they initiated in the wars of the last 100 years, these elites can rather be described as inhuman mass murderers.

The purest form of madness is to leave everything as it is and at the same time hope that things will get better (Albert Einstein).

Ernst Hellmann, born in 1952, retired in 2014. Since 2010, he has been a member and author of the Community for Peace and Justice, which aims to highlight the increasing injustices in global societies and the seemingly unstoppable destruction of our living environment by the actions of global political and economic elites.
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