FEAR OF CRASH
Werner Seppmann’s book on crisis and class consciousness
By Herbert Muenchow
[This book review published in: Junge Welt 8/2/2010 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.jungewelt.de/2010/08-02/006.php?print=1
Werner Seppman’s book “Krisis ohne Widerstand?” (Crisis without Resistance) describes the social confrontation course of capital in the consciousness of wage-earners. The question why there has not been any appreciable resistance of crisis victims occupies him. The question is raised: How can resistance be organized? How can wage-earners be mobilized against the capitalist class society and won for socialist orientations?
Like other authors, Seppmann sees the crisis as an intensifier of the consequences of a course of social devastation against the working class practiced for three decades. The countermeasures of capital against falling profit rates caused that devastation. In detail, the author analyzes the “intimidation offensive of capital” joined with the social-political deforestation and the great crisis which the unions could hardly oppose for a long time. “The attack of the living standards of wage-earners,” he writers in connection with falling profit rates, “becomes an essential component of capital accumulation.” Capital sees its chances. The crisis works hand in hand with the ruling elite. The author explains the causes of the crisis like other Marxists. With other authors, he recognizes wage-earners lack the strength to resist and an orientating perspective as its prerequisite. Seppmann thematicizes a very extensive problem. What is the crisis experience with its fear and anxiety? “Social relations” are marked by crisis” and precarious living conditions. As his book shows, this is a very promising approach for avoiding abstract appeals and uninspired economism. “A presentiment about historical alternatives is indispensable for looking beyond the worldly distresses and questioning the dominant conditions,” he writes. Breaking with the logic of self-instrumentalization, awareness about the socio-cultural spectrum of possibilities must be developed.
Seppmann’s reflections on the organization question are interesting. The seriousness of a position critical of capitalism appears in “the intellectual openness for organization structures appropriate for the conflict constellations. Splinter parties orienting themselves in the delusion of a mass relevance makes little sense.” Seppmann holds onto the party concept. The party must be able conceptually “to see a common point in divergent experiential horizons and interests.” The concrete circumstances of the class struggle are also constitutive for the organization concept. “Strengthening the resistance capability of class organization” is necessary. Union strategies could have an “icebreaker function.” The unions will only find their way out of their defensive position when they learn again to wage social conflicts as struggles over essential social formative principles. The “struggle for immediate material interests” of wage-earners can no longer be separated from the ideas of reshaping society.” The “hour of truth” comes for the forces of change that is crucial for the working class in the phase of upswing but not immediately in the crisis, Seppmann says. “Courage for the offensive” is necessary. Deficient political activity of wage-earners must be understood in “leftist contexts” as self-criticism.
The author raises the problem of “transition demands” whose formulation requires “concrete knowledge about the working class and development of productivity.” Social division is a strategy of domination. Social intimidation is part of a new form of rule. Capital creates a “threat façade” admonishing workers that it could get even worse for them. Disciplining crisis experience, poverty society, fear of crashing, social and cultural divisions and division tendencies in the world of work are all reason for the defensive reactions of crisis victims. Seppmann writes: “Through the pressure of crisis, the balance of power changes again in favor of capital. Generalized insecurity was the prerequisite for the enforcement of the neoliberal capital exploitation strategy.” The fear of social crash paralyzes crisis victims. The author speaks of a “tendency to self-suppressing crisis management.” “Capability for self-determined action” is part of revolution. Ideological tendencies can be countered with organized e3nlightenment so workers become conscious of their own interests.” Seppmann urges the Marxist analysis of crises with its political consequence of acting in the sense of the socialist alternative, of developing a class consciousness. The dynamic of self-destruction must be overcome. The life praxis of neoliberalism produces self-delusion which objectively relieves real capitalism. Werner Seppmann’s book revolts. I recommend it to every leftist for serious study.