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What is the Origin of Wealth?

by Attac Austria Saturday, Mar. 10, 2012 at 5:05 PM

"Europe faces the choice of falling apart in the crisis or taking steps to another economic model," 50 scholars from the advisory board of Attac Germany declared. They make the connection between the chaos of the financial markets and the scandalous distribution of wealth


By Attac Austria

[This article published in February 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://sandimgetriebe.attac.at/index.php?ch=98358&type=98.]

Bertolt Brecht

Questions from A Worker Who Reads

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?

In the books you will find the name of kings.

Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?

And Babylon, many times demolished.

Who raised it up so many times? In what houses

Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?

Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished

Did the masons go? Great Rome

Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom

Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song,

Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis

The night the ocean engulfed it

The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.

Was he alone?

Caesar beat the Gauls.

Did he not have even a cook with him?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada

Went down. Was he the only one to weep?

Frederick the Second won the Seven Years' War. Who

Else won it?

Every page a victory.

Who cooked the feast for the victors?

Every ten years a great man.

Who paid the bill?

So many reports.

So many questions.

"Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters" - translated by M. Hamburger

from Bertolt Brecht, Poems 1913-1956, Methuen, N.Y., London, 1976

The economists of the world agree: this crisis is the worst since the world-wide economic crisis of 1929. There is also a far-reaching consensus about the causes: the totally polarized distribution of incomes and assets on one side (“vertical contradiction”: labor/capital) and the chaotic deregulated competitive system of the globalized markets that is completely out of control (“horizontal contradiction”: capitalists against one another). But this crisis has also provoked answers.

David Harvey writes on the global Occupy movement: “The party of Wall Street meets its nemesis.” Naomi Klein emphasizes differences and parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that gained the attention of the world in Seattle 1999. Going to the roots is crucial now instead of “summit hopping.” The new culture that has formed is admired. My favorite poster is “I am concerned about you.” To say “Let them die” is a very radical statement in a culture that teaches people to avoid looking at one another. For Rich Wolff, the Occupy movement in the US is more radical in its system criticism that earlier protests. “In the past, it was very hard to identify capitalism as part of the problem. That was too radical or un-American. Today this is no longer the case. The left never believed this was possible. Now we stand at the beginning.” For Germany, Peter Grottian, Steffen Stierle and Alexis J. Passadakis discuss the movement of Attac and the new Occupy movement.” The motto is: “Support and complement the new movement without dominating it.”

Walden Bello, theoretician of de-globalization, tackles the challenges of the increase of the world population since raising the production level of food reaches its limits. A conscious family policy to reduce population growth (China and Vietnam) leads to available resources for development and fighting poverty. Still changing the development model is urgent. The question about the development model was on the agenda at the Forum of the Peoples in Mali, and at the conference against the appropriation of land in Durban (climate conference).

“Europe faces the chose of falling apart in the crisis or taking steps to another economic model,” 50 sch8olars from the advisory board of Attyac Gertmany declared. They make the connection between the chaos of the financial markets and the scandalous distribution of wealth in Europe. “The share of effortless income in the national income has to be drastically reduced.” Michael Husson demands cooperative solutions for Europe’s problems. He urges a reconstruction of Europe. The will to force different rules on capitalism could be the foundation for the “common program.” The Greek composer MikisTheorodakis also warns that confrontation between the peoples of Europe threatens. “Resist the totalitarianism of the markets that threatens to shatter Europe and transform it into a third world where the European nations fight against each other.” Sonia Mitralia sees Greece as a test rabbit, “as a global laboratory in which the ability of people to resist structural adjustment plans is tested in the great crisis of state debts.” Attac’s journal “Sand in the Machine” documents two broad alliances – in France (Committee for a Debt Audit) and in Austria (140 communities for another financing system).

This would not be the first time that capitalism tried to solve its crises by escaping in belligerent adventures. The mass unemployment in the world-wide economic crisis of 1929 was ultimately solved by the transition to the arms program of the Second World War, not through FDR’s left-Keynesian New Deal. Could the saber-rattling against Iran and Syria today mean that a flight into another military adventure is planned? The international website on militarism warns of “Afghanistan as an experimental field – 10 years of war and no end in sight.” In an open letter, the Iranian scholars Mohssen Massarat and Bahmen Nirumand exclaim: “Whoever only wants to prevent Iranian nuclear missiles like the Greens in the German Bundestag and pleads that Israel as the only nuclear country in the region should keep its monopoly as a nuclear power advocates the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region and is ultimately jointly responsible for that.” They urge “doing our utmost for a mass destruction- free zone, the idea of cooperation in the Middle East and the inclusion of all states including Iran and Israel.”


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