"CAPITALISM DOESN'T NEED DEMOCRACY"
By Ingo Schulze
[This article published in: Sueddeutsche Zeitung 1/12/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, link to www.sueddeutsche.de.]
Madness as a foregone conclusion! For years, it has been obvious that democracy is ruined and the social state crumbles. Privatized profits and socialized losses decay to foregone conclusions. 13 reasons to take system change seriously.
For three years, I did not write any articles because I didn't know what I should write. Everything is so blatant: the abo0lition of democracy, the increasing social and economic polarization in poor and rich, the ruin of the social state, the privatization and as a result economization/commodification of all areas of life (education, the public health system, the public transportation system and so forth), the blindness for rightwing extremism, the drivel of the media that talk without interruption to avoid speaking about the real problems, the open and hidden censorship (one time as direct refusal and another time in the form of "ratings" or "format") and on and on. Are they not the ones who have taken unimaginable billions from the community? For whose trust do our highest representatives wrestle?
Intellectuals are silent. Nothing is heard from the universities or from the so-called seminal thinkers. Here and there a brief flickering arises and then darkness. I can only repeat truisms or platitudes. Profits are privatized and losses are socialized. I wish I could name counter-examples.
When madness is described as a foregone conclusion day after day, it is only a matter of time until one regards oneself as sick and abnormal. In the following, I will try to present several ideas that seem important to me.
1. Speaking of an attack on democracy is euphemistic. A situation in which it is allowed and made legal for the minority of a minority to seriously damage the public interest for its enrichment is post-democratic. The community itself is culpable because it doesn't6 resist its plundering or choose representatives that defend its interests.
2. Every day we hear the governments had to "calm the markets" and "regain the trust of the markets." The markets mean the stock exchanges and financial markets, those actors who speculate in their own interest or in the commission of others to make as much profit as possible. Didn't they relieve the community of unimaginable billions? Should our highest representatives wrestle for their trust?
3. We are rightly outraged over Vladimir Putin's "controlled democracy." Why shouldn't Angela Merkel have resigned when she spoke of "market-conforming democracy"?
4. Capitalism needs stable conditions, not democracy. The reactions to the announced plebiscite in Greece and its immediate cancellation made clear that functioning democratic structures can operate and be observed more as countervailing forces and brakes on capitalism.
"The language of politicians is no longer able to grasp reality."
5. With the financial crisis of 2008, I believed that our community has much survival instinct to effectively protect itself. That was not only an error. That hope has been reversed into its opposite.
The money gained by one is lacking to others. Because it is privatized and not socialized, this always means above against below, not Germans against Greeks.
6. Through the collapse of the Eastern bloc, several ideologies gained a hegemony that was so undisputed it was regarded as a foregone conclusion. Privatization is one example. Privatization was stylized as something absolutely positive. Everything that was not privatized remained in the possession of the community and not subject to any private pursuit of gain was deemed ineffective and unfriendly to customers. Thus a public atmosphere was engendered that sooner or later had to lead to the self-dethronement of community.
7. Growth is another ideology that flourished. "Without growth, everything is nothing," the German chancellor decreed years ago. One cannot speak about the euro crisis without speaking about these two ideologies.
8. The language of politicians who should represent us is no longer able to grasp reality (I witnessed something similar already in East Germany.) It is a language of self-assurance that relativizes and doesn't test any opposing perspectives any more. Politics decays to a vehicle or a bellowing to enflame growth. All salvation is expected from growth; all action is subordinated to this goal. The citizen is reduced to the consumer. Growth in itself means nothing. The social ideal would be the playboy who consumes as much as possible in the shortest time. A war would bring about a tremendous growth-push.
9. The simple questions "Who benefits? And "Who earns in this?" are in bad form. Don't we all sit in the same boat? Don't we all have the same interests? Whoever doubts this is a class warrior. The social and economic polarization of society occurred amid lo9ud protests that we all had the same interests. A walk through Berlin is enough to dispel this platitude. In the better quarters, the few schools, kindergartens, senior homes, offices, swimming pools and hospitals need refurbishing. In the so-called problem areas, the public buildings needing revitalization are less striking. Poverty is noticeable in gaps in teeth. Today it is said demagogically: We are all living beyond our means. Everyone is greedy.
"No one should be surprised that the treasuries are empty."
10. Our community was and is driven against the wall by democratically elected representatives since it is robbed of its revenues. The top tax rate in Germany was lowered by the Schroeder government from 53 percent to 42 percent. The corporation tax rate was nearly cut in half from 57.5 percent to 29.4 percent (the top US tax rate was cut in half from 70 to 35%. See the chart from Wikipedia Commons, ) No one should be surprised that the treasuries are empty even though our gross domestic product increases year after year.
11. The money gained by one is lacking to others. The money of the wealthy - if one believes the statistics - flows into the lucrative financial market businesses and not into investments as desired. On the other hand, social state benefits are abolished everywhere in Europe to hand over bailout packages to banks that speculate. "The legitimate resources of social democracy are consumed in this redistribution to the favor of the rich" (Elmar Altvater, 2011).
12. What was sold to us as an antithesis between East and West Germany is portrayed as an opposition between countries. In March, a translated book of mine was presented to me in Porto, Portugal. A question from the public suddenly changed the whole friendly and interested atmosphere from one moment to the next. Suddenly we were only Germans and Portuguese who hostilely faced each other.
The question was unfriendly - whether we (Germans) accomplished with the euro what we did not accomplish at that time with our tanks. No one from the public opposed this. I reacted as a German. No one is forced to buy a Mercedes, I said. They should be glad to receive credits that were cheaper than private credits...
In the uproar that followed my reply, I finally came to understanding. Since I had the microphone in hand, I stammered in my imperfect English that I reacted as idiotically as they and that we all fell in the same trap when we took sides as Portuguese and Germans for our own colors as in a soccer game. Was the focus now on Germans and Portuguese and not above and below, on those in Portugal and Germany who brought about this situation and earned and still earn in this plight?
13. Democracy would happen if politics intervenes in the present economic structure throu9gh taxes, laws and controls and forces the actors in the markets, above all the financial markets, in paths that are consistent with the interests of the community. Simple questions are crucial: Who benefits? Who earns in this? Is this good for our community? Ultimately it would be the question: What do we want? For me, that would be democracy.
[The author, born in 1962 in Dresden, is an author. His volume of essays "Orangen und Engel. Italian Sketches" was recently published (Berlin Verlag, Berlin 2010).]
Private losses were made into public losses. The state became an errand boy for Wall Street and campaign contributors. Long-term necessities, language and community fall by the wayside (cf.
Moyers and Company"). Lobbyists spend $4 billion a year and expect a return (cf. Lawrence Lessig, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress, 2011).
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