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"Capitalism is not the solution"

by Heiner Geissler Friday, Jun. 01, 2007 at 4:06 AM

Attac turns against the unjust sides of globalization. We need the contagious power of the ideas of freedom, justice and equality. The last European revolution in 1989 succeeded despite dictatorial conditions.


Once Heiner Geissler was general secretary of the CDU (centrist German party of Helmut Kohl). Now he has joined Attac and fights against the neoliberal spirit of the times

[This interview published in: DIE ZEIT 21/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

DIE ZEIT: Mr. Geissler, you belong to a network that declares war for the G8 is a means for securing access to raw materials and markets and that violence during the protests is possible.

HEINER GEISSLER: I don’t have to accept everything that is said in an organization. Just as little must I accept everything that the chairperson of the CDU economics council says. While I may be critical of some things, that is not most important. Attac turns against the unjust sides of globalization and develops economic concepts. That is important to me.

The police in Heiligendamm will restrict the right of demonstration during the summit. Should the protestors be allowed near the fence?

I don’t know the local circumstances. Still the right of demonstration is a basic right. It is exercised ad absurdum when the addressants cannot see the protest. The police have the function of protecting this right, not only the summit.

When Russian president Vladimir Putin recently countered Angela Merkel’s criticism of the non-existent right of demonstration in Russia by referring to the latest police raids of the German prosecutors’ office, she called his attitude understandable…

I only said Ms. Merkel should remind the German authorities of this model. Russian conditions cannot be compared with German conditions. The Federal Prosecutor’s office may not shoot in the dark in the hope of hitting something.

You joined Attac because you wanted more rules for international economic relations.

Globalization runs completely off course. It has created an economic system where hedge funds can operate uncontrolled. So-called vulture funds make huge profits at the expense of heavily indebted African countries. The higher the stock prices of a corporation, the more employees are rationalized away. Such an economic system is sick, immoral and economically wrong.

Neoliberal prescriptions are still applied in many states of the world, sometimes successfully.

With neoliberalism, a few are better off and many are worse off. The gap between poor and rich grows in countries that profit from world export. China is the best example of this. This country competes with us because of a criminal location advantage gained through merciless exploitation of people, wage slavery and destruction of nature. In addition, there is the intellectual robbery through widespread product piracy. Any idiot can be successful this way on the world market.

How can a Chinese employee be made aware that he is exploited?

That is impossible. He is in competition with millions of itinerant workers with even lower wages. He cannot voice his distress. Most are afraid and handed over to corrupt authorities.

How can balance in life be realized worldwide?

Intellectual leadership is vital. The poor have never organized revolutions. Intellectuals are needed now.

Many states prevent access to critical opinions.

The Internet is an important factor. The attempt to censure the exchange of opinions on the net comes to nothing.

We need the contagious power of the ideas of freedom, justice and equality. The last European revolution in 1989 succeeded despite dictatorial conditions. No dictatorship could stop what Solidarnosc kindled first in Poland and then in the whole eastern block.

At that time, the West with its liberal ideals was still a model. Today’s revolutions are usually anti-democratic. If free elections took place in most Arab dictatorships, Islamists would come to power, not democrats.

That is the great political sin of the Bush administration. With the Iraq war and Guantanamo, the common values of the West are discredited. The past six years were a grave setback.

How can Europe and North America become models for democratic movements?

We need an ethical foundation for our politics. We cannot continue following those whose brains are devoured by greed for money. We need concepts for an international social-ecological market economy and for binding international rules. We need majorities for this.

The Tobin tax raises the price of international financial transactions. Is this one example of such a rule?

The Tobin tax would be an important element of such a mechanism.

Many globalization critics believe the problems cannot be solved in the system of capitalism.

Capitalism is just as false as communism. Capitalism knows no values beyond supply and demand. Communists try to solve the ancient conflict between capital and labor by eliminating capital and its owners. Capitalism liquidates labor and employees.

We need a new way of the middle. One model could be the old German social market economy. This model cannot be realized today because the economy unlike politics is configured globally. Therefore politics must be internationalized.

Must nations be overcome?

Yes, the nation state cannot react to the burning challenges any more.

Large parts of the European population already reject a regional creation like the European Union (EU).

The EU provides the towrope of these neoliberal developments. The service guideline and too much freedom of movement for employees have led people in core countries like France and the Netherlands to suddenly fear Europe. Citizens sense that the person is no longer in the center and turn away from politics.

Some young persons turn to nationalistic or extreme rightwing parties like the NPD. The rearmed nation should help because globalization causes injustice.

First of all, the NDP does not enjoy great popularity. Secondly, this view turns out to be nonsense. The US sociologist Daniel Bell once said: “The nation state is too small for the big things and too big for the small things.” In the future, communities, cities and regions will be much more important. Only they can provide a home where people can find themselves again. However big questions like economic policy and fighting terrorism must be solved internationally. As a result, Berlin, Rome, Paris and London become increasingly insignificant. Schwerin, Koln, Wiesbaden and Stuttgart become more important.

Why are the summit opponents more the theme of discussion than globalization?

German politics works on the short term. This is inevitable since intellectual conceptions are lacking. The churches, universities and unions must give more stimulation. Since they are now dropping the ball, the political parties have much responsibility.

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