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Labor fetish and anti-semitism

by Lothar Galow-Bergemann Saturday, Apr. 16, 2022 at 10:13 PM

"Work makes you free" was written above the gate of the Auschwitz death camp. How did the Nazis come up with that? Isn't work something meaningful, something good? What does it have to do with Auschwitz, of all places? Because work and meaningful activity are, two different things.

Labor fetish and anti-Semitism

by Lothar Galow-Bergemann

[This article published on 3/10/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Published in Jungle World, 03/10/2022.

"Work makes you free" was written above the gate of the Auschwitz death camp. How did the Nazis come up with that? Isn't work something meaningful, something good? What does it have to do with Auschwitz, of all places? A great deal. Because work and meaningful activity are, contrary to popular belief, two different things.

The work society

The highest law in our society is not written anywhere, but everyone knows it: We have to work all our lives to earn money so that we can live. This working and the positive reference to it seems to us like a law of nature. But even the origin of the word "work" in different languages should make us wonder. The ancient Greek ponein (to work) comes from ponos (toil, burden), the French and Spanish words for work travail /trabajo derive from the vulgar Latin tripalare, which means nothing other than "to torment, to stake." In Russian, work is called rabota, which comes from rab, "the slave." And the Germanic arba simply means "the servant.

In ancient times, people thought quite differently than they do today. Social recognition was not given to work, but to those who did not have to work. Only then, according to the prevailing opinion, could one be a free and social being. Admittedly, only very few could afford to do so, and the vast majority were in a bad way. But it is simply not true that work has always been considered the ideal, as it is today.

That it came so far has a long prehistory. Christianity is one of them. Martin Luther, for example, was a real work fanatic: "Man is born to work as a bird is born to fly," he said, and: "Idleness is sin against God's command." ("To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation," 1520.) The work we take so much for granted today also has much to do with the military and war. The first wage laborers in the modern sense were the lansquenets of the standing armies, to whom the absolutist princes paid wages - in other words, the soldiers.

The history of labor is a history of violence. If the wage was enough for the first factory workers for more than one day, they understandably did not appear in the 16-hour hell for as long as possible. But because capitalism cannot work like that, people were forced under the regime of labor by brute methods. Wage cuts forced even the children into the factory so that the family could survive.

To make people "learn to work," the judiciary imposed brutal punishments for the smallest offenses. Thus, delinquents were chained in holes that filled with water. In order not to drown, they had to draw water for hours without interruption. Others had to toil in treadmills under whip lashes until they collapsed. So-called penitentiaries were "forced labor houses for stubborn beggars and mean-spirited idlers, in which they are forced to work hard" ("Meyers Konversationslexikon," 4th edition, 1888/90). Much shocking information from the unfortunately largely forgotten history of the enforcement of labor can be found in Robert Kurz's "Schwarzbuch Kapitalismus. A swan song for the market economy" (1999).

The people who created the labor movement in the 19th century, however, had abandoned opposition to labor. They even identified with it and were proud of it. Reasonable voices like those of Paul Lafargue were at a loss: "A strange addiction dominates the working class of all countries where capitalist civilization prevails, an addiction which results in the individual and mass misery prevailing in modern society. This is the love of work, the frenzied addiction to work which goes to the exhaustion of individuals and their offspring." (Paul Lafargue: "The Right to Laziness," 1880.) In the following two centuries, work was virtually canonized - throughout society and across all political camps. Nowadays, a poster with the inscription "We fight for every job" can be from IG Metall as well as from the CDU.

And what can you expect in the coveted workplaces? Headlines reflect what very many know only too well from their own experience: "Burn-out. When work makes you sick"; "Every second person complains about time pressure at work"; "Heart attack due to overtime"; "Every fourth employee has to work on weekends, every sixth in shift work"; "Dissatisfied employees. Null Bock auf den Job"; "Raus aus der Mühle"; "Ältere Arbeitnehmer wollen möglichst schnell raus"; "Aus dem Alltag ausbrechen, weit weg reisen, etwas völlig Neues ausprobieren - viele träumen davon". (See also Peter Samol, The Performance Dictatorship. How the pressure of competition makes our lives hell, 2021).

If it were up to people, only two percent of them would retire after the age of 65; most of them want to stop working much earlier (Die Welt, May 17, 2014). And what is the answer? Retirement at 67, at 68, at 70, at 75 - all of these are being seriously discussed. Anyone under 40 today knows: I won't have a pension I can live on when I'm 80. That's an open secret.

And it's a huge scandal. Because robots and computers have been getting better and better for decades. Tomorrow, we will literally be able to produce even more goods with even less work. And yet we are expected to work longer and longer. What a madness. But this is not the fault of a German chancellor or a chairman of the Deutsche Bank, but of the absurd logic of "our economy.

Let's do a thought experiment to understand this logic in more detail. Let's assume that we have bought a pressure cooker and use it to prepare a delicious meal. Not only does it taste better than the old pot, it also has more vitamins and, most importantly, it's ready in five minutes instead of 20, as it used to be. What do we reasonably do with the extra quarter of an hour? Lie down on the couch, water the flowers, call our girlfriend - whatever, we use the time gained for other things.

The logic of "our economy" doesn't go along with this. It commands us: "Don't lie down on your bed, but make four delicious meals in the 20 minutes!" - But why, I don't need them, one is enough for me." - "But what you need is of no interest at all. You have to look for buyers, look for buyers, look for buyers!"

Why is that? Because the commodity is the germ form of our society. Here the everyday consciousness beats us the second snip. Because just as it confuses work and activity, it also makes no distinction between goods and commodities. But goods are simply goods. The form of the commodity, on the other hand, contains an entire social relationship. It presupposes commodity owners isolated from one another, who work not for their needs but for an anonymous power on which their weal and woe depend: the market. Most of them own only the commodity labor power and have to hope that the labor market will be interested in it.

The economy on which we depend is rightly called a market economy. Another word for it is capitalism. By the way, it would be better to speak consciously and pronouncedly of capital-ism. For one must understand the thing that gives this ism its name: capital. It has its very own inner logic, which no economic system has known before. It must grow unceasingly. If it stops doing so, it immediately falls into crisis. In the murderous elbow competition of the market, capital only prevails if it has enough investment funds to rationalize as much as possible, i.e. to save labor. Only in this way can it offer a price that beats out its competitors.

In order to generate the investment resources with which capital can be that decisive step ahead of its competitors, it must achieve the highest possible profit. But because each individual capital must do exactly the same thing under penalty of its demise, the system as a whole inevitably gives birth to an endless spiral of accumulation of capital. Limitless growth and maximum profit are the DNA of a market economy. The markets are the real rulers in capitalism.

But don't some people always rule? It was like that before capital-ism, but then it became different. Yes, in capital-ism there are those who are swimming in money and those who are starving. There are "those up there" and "those down there," the powerful and the powerless. And yet even the most powerful cannot override the logic of capital, even if they wanted to. Capital-ism is an abstract form of domination.

The former chairman of the board of BMW, Eberhard von Kuenheim, was once asked if he didn't know that there are far too many cars and that the planet will eventually no longer be able to cope if more and more are built. His answer: "There may be too many automobiles in the world, but there are still too few BMWs." (Bayernkurier, March 7, 2016.) Unintentionally, he thus summed up the insane logic of capital ism. Of course, the managers of VW, Daimler and Toyota must also say the same.

And with them also the workers of the respective concern. Even if a worker should have gotten rid of her own car in an environmentally conscious way, she must be interested in as many BMWs as possible being built and sold. Her livelihood and that of her family depend on her work. The union and the works council know this, too. Not only profits but also jobs depend on the successful accumulation of capital.

The whole society is held hostage to eternal growth and maximum profit. Without these, of course, the state would also be incapable of acting, because it can generate its lifeblood of taxes only if the mega-machine hums ceaselessly. The logic of capitalist society is absurd and suicidal: we are racing towards the wall, but we cannot get off because we live from this frenzy. At the moment, the climate protection movement is making particularly painful experiences with this as soon as jobs are at stake.

The identification with work

For all the clashes of interests between capital and labor - in the end, both are in the same boat of capital exploitation. Labor is neither "activity" nor "antagonistic (irreconcilable) contradiction to capital".It is rather the ruling formal principle of a society of commodity producers and sellers. The starting point and goal of this commodity society is the self-interested accumulation of capital. In another society, whose starting point and goal would not be the abstract wealth of the accumulation of capital, but the satisfaction of human needs, the material wealth that we need to live would be the sole purpose of economic activity. So we would not be working and producing commodities - we would be engaged in meaningful activity and producing commodities. Work and goods are fetishes that dominate us. This fetishism, unlike, say, an ideology, cannot be overcome by thought reflection alone. But without reflected critique of capital-ism, we are not even aware of the fetish character of this domination, and we cannot imagine that it is man-made and can also be abolished.

But whether one sees through this fetish or not, the life and social status of almost all people in capitalist society depend on their work. Without my work I am nothing. The identification with work, especially since it appears as a kind of natural law, is obvious. Even if one secretly hates it. It's no coincidence that when asked, "What are you?" no one answers, "I'm a father," or, "I'm someone who likes to hike, make music, think, or dance," but rather, "I'm a saleswoman, a train driver, a teacher, a car dealer." I am my work.

Their identitarian reference to work prevents people from thinking outside the box of capital-ism. As long as they sit in this prison of thought, by the way, it doesn't matter how much "the people" have to say. In Switzerland, famous for its referenda, a large majority voted against six weeks of vacation for everyone. That would not exactly have been the transition to a classless society. But the argument was, "More vacation means fewer jobs." Grotesque.

Identification with work makes people decide against a better life. Constantly accompanying them is the fear of becoming "worthless" to the market and falling into the bottomless pit. And yet the conditions seem to them to be natural and without alternative. If they feel something is going wrong in society, they blame individual "culprits" and "bad policies," without giving the structural constraints of the economy a second thought.

If crises occur, they seem to have nothing to do with the rule of labor, commodities, the market and capital. People's tunnel vision can then quickly mutate into conspiracy world views. They fantasize about dark forces with evil intentions that want to get at them. How great the potential for this is in very different corners of society and that even education and intelligence do not necessarily protect against it is currently demonstrated by the "lateral thinking" demonstrations.

The conformist rebellion

One can rebel and be conformist at the same time. Not understanding capital, but running up a storm against the consequences of capital-ism, makes that possible. It's like sitting in a prison you don't know about. If this is combined with the idea of "guilty bad guys and conspiracies," the basis for a conformist rebellion is laid. This demands authoritarian solutions to crises and the elimination of the supposedly guilty. At worst, it sinks into anti-Semitic annihilationism.

Nazi Germany demonstrated that the thought prison of the labor fetish can produce true monsters in times of crisis. Nazism was a mass movement of conformist rebels. Their unconscious and unacknowledged longing for a life without work, while at the same time identifying with their work, was discharged in hatred of those who could afford such a life - be it real or only in the imagination of the rebels. By them, at any rate, they felt deeply insulted and betrayed.

That their hatred struck "the Jews" was no accident. The history of the Christian Occident is riddled with murderous pogroms against Jews. For almost two thousand years, Christianity branded the Jews as "God-killers." They were considered "well poisoners" and "child murderers." Of course, they were also "guilty" of the plague. In the 12th century, the Church forbade Christians to engage in the "money business" and assigned it to the Jews, whom it simultaneously prohibited from practicing many professions. This inevitably led to the fact that there were more Jews among bankers than in the average of the total population. The ground was prepared for the equation of "Jew" and "money," a central topos of modern anti-Semitism.

Moreover, the canonization of labor was nowhere as pronounced as in Germany. This, too, had to do with Christianity, and especially with Protestantism, which left similarly clear traces in only a few countries. Martin Luther was not only a work fanatic, but also an ardent Jew-hater. It was no coincidence that the Nazis were big Luther fans. In their minds, too, the two went together seamlessly. A pronounced affirmative reference to "honest work" was virtually constitutive of the NSDAP's worldview.

Because of all these historical and substantive continuities, it was obvious that the Jews became the hate objects whose elimination the Nazi Germans desired. In the delusion that had seized most Germans - whether they belonged to "those up there" or to "those down there" - Auschwitz was the disposal of "rapacity" in the name of "honest and cheated labor." The perverse motto "work makes you free" above the gate of Auschwitz had its corollary.

Thanks to the Allies of the Second World War, the Nazi Germans were defeated. Nowadays, most people have "nothing against Jews." Nevertheless, anti-Semitism has not disappeared. This also has to do with the fact that it has never really been understood and dealt with. It ferments under the surface of a crisis-ridden society and increasingly dares to come out into the open again, for example at "lateral thinking" demonstrations.

But even those who do not equate "the guilty" by whom they feel oppressed with "the Jews" can find themselves dangerously close to anti-Semitism without being aware of it. Since the financial crisis of 2008, which to this day does not really want to end and continues to take new forms, many feel threatened by "greedy speculators, banksters, locusts" (and so on), whom they "blame." Social criticism is confused with anger at "pack of lies" and "lying press."

If there is a lesson to be learned from history, it is this: anti-Semitic exterminationism can spread furiously in times of crisis. In the Reichstag election of May 1928, the NSDAP received 2.6 percent of the vote. Less than 14 years later, in January 1942, the Wannsee Conference organized the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question." The monsters of the past can rise again.

Nothing has to remain as it is

We are living in a dangerous time of crisis. There is no certainty about how this will turn out. But there are also things that give hope. One of these is that nowadays there is a reflected critique of capital ism that understands it much better than the common "anti-capitalism" from the left and the right. But it is unfortunately still too little known. Its dissemination is essential for finding ways out of capital-ism. It begins with the critique of labor and can therefore take a completely different look at things.

The real scandal is not that the enormous increase in productivity we are experiencing does not provide everyone with a job, but the other way around, that despite this increase we are supposed to work more and more and longer and longer. A better, nature and human compatible life with much more space for personal development would have been possible long ago - without capital-ism. (See also Lothar Galow-Bergemann and Ernst Lohoff, Gestohlene Lebenszeit. Why Capitalism Necessitates Renunciation and We Could Work Much Less, in Ernst Lohoff, Norbert Trenkle (eds.), Shutdown. Climate, Corona, and the Necessary Exit from Capitalism, 2020) But you cannot get rid of capital-ism until you really understand it. This is proven by the various failed attempts to overcome it. But there are not only failed attempts. There are also many smart and exciting practical initiatives and projects today that are learning from the mistakes of the past and trying out new ways.

This text first appeared in the critical labor brochure "Nine to Five - Perspectives on Work," published by the Leipzig group "Utopia and Practice." It has been slightly edited. The brochure is available online as a pdf file.


Enough sweating! A study by Steffen Liebig on the reduction of working hours

In a study worth reading, sociologist Steffen Liebig examines models of working time reduction from a social and ecological perspective

Labor and Social Criticism

by Lothar Galow-Bergemann

[This article published on January 20, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

published in Jungle World, January 20, 2022

For decades, trade unions have made little progress in demanding a reduction of working hours. After the struggles of the 1980s over the 35-hour week, a leaden calm settled over the country for what felt like an eternity. The temporary introduction of a four-day week at VW between 1994 and 2006 gave rise to certain hopes, but these were soon abandoned. All in all, there was a threat of regression. Although hardly a trade union conference went by without a new standard for working hours being demanded in eloquent and well-founded terms, the results were not forthcoming. Those who for decades have only been able to make demands and move practically nothing are obviously in crisis. This shows the dwindling power of the trade unions under the conditions of global competition between locations and technologically driven productivity growth.

The increased efficiency could actually be used for radical reductions in working hours. If "the economy" functioned according to reasonable rules, it would not make "superfluous" people out of work that is finally becoming superfluous. But the prevailing economic system immediately generates tangible crises if it cannot grow permanently and generate profits. If it continues to do so, it plunges the world into crisis. Nowhere is this dilemma more evident than in dealing with global warming. For the ever more intensive and rapid use of human and natural resources is not due to the sensible satisfaction of needs or the production of material wealth, but solely to the functional logic of capitalism. With the climate crisis caused by it, the planet is literally being burned up.

It is the dependence of individuals on their jobs that makes this system, which in itself is absurd, so stable. If this economic system goes into crisis, people's livelihoods are threatened. Although it would be ecologically sensible to build far fewer and much longer-lasting cars, under the given circumstances this would result in mass unemployment and poverty.

Not only the system, but also the very concrete work leaves more and more people with unpleasant feelings. They suffer directly from it and would rather give up their jobs today than tomorrow. For those under 40, the outlook is particularly depressing, because they know that they will hardly be able to earn a pension on which they can live.

Steffen Liebig, a sociologist and postdoctoral researcher in the special research area "Structural Change of Property" at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, attempts to bring together social and ecological aspects of work in his readable study "Arbeitszeitverkürzung als Konvergenzpunkt?" (Reducing Working Hours as a Point of Convergence?). His volume should interest climate activists and growth critics as well as trade unionists. If only because both still (want to) know far too little about each other. However, the elimination of this "double void" (Liebig) is a prerequisite for the formation of assertive social alliances that can develop and realize a radical socio-ecological transformation perspective.

In a pleasant contrast to the debate of the degrowth movement, for example, which is largely focused on aspects critical of consumption, Liebig directs attention to the often neglected sphere of work and production, for without their fundamental transformation there will be little progress. He examines trade union and growth-critical theory and practice, thus underpinning his core thesis that "a policy of reducing working hours is suited to represent a point of convergence between trade union positions on the one hand and socio-ecological to growth-critical concepts of work on the other."

Because it is necessary to "make working time relations dance," as Liebig loosely puts it, the author follows with particular interest the current trade union debates on the introduction of a 28-hour week, electoral models and working time policies oriented toward the life course. He notes a "renaissance of working time policy" among some unions. Detailed interviews with leaders of IG Metall, Verdi and the railroad union EVG convey experiences, possibilities and limits of trade union collective bargaining policy.

In view of the long-standing decline in collective bargaining in many areas, Liebig emphasizes that the unions cannot bring about the necessary changes, for example in the pension issue, on their own. For "working time policy to be radicalized and expanded beyond the existing collective bargaining framework," he says, broad social alliances and movements are needed. In other words, without the participation of the climate and environmental protection movements, the unions will not really get anywhere. Conversely, the climate movement needs union support.

The example of the "future of pensions" could also be used to demonstrate something fundamental, but unfortunately Liebig omits to do so. The age structure of the population, which is moving inexorably away from the pyramid model, is one of the many indications that monetarized social relationships are no longer sustainable in principle. Not only the increasingly crisis-prone capitalist economy, but also the requirements of the necessary transformation point to the fact that reliance on future financing of pensions, care activities and other important areas of life, which ultimately has the assumption of permanently solid tax and social security revenues as an unspoken prerequisite, is simply illusory. Anyone who wants to overcome the social and ecological crisis must face the fact that the principle of "earning money as a means of subsistence," i.e., wage labor, tends to offer prospects to fewer and fewer people. A transformation movement would therefore have to attack this principle offensively.

Liebig does not go quite that far. It is precisely the reference to the "complicity between labor and capital" that he dislikes in the reflections of the French social philosopher André Gorz, which in many respects are still very topical. Just how right Gorz was in doing so is shown by the climate crisis, against the background of which Liebig's talk of the "class character of capitalist growth" is hardly convincing. Gorz's categorical critique of the working society is more topical than ever. The transition to solidary forms of social wealth production is necessary for survival.

Incidentally, this would not even have to mean the end of the trade unions, quite the contrary. As a mass organization of experts on material wealth, they could play a central role in a successful transformation process, of which they themselves would not least be the subject. The search for viable paths of transformation also requires a radical critique of labor, if only because the identitarian reference to labor today again proves conspicuously susceptible to authoritarian-fascist alleged "alternatives."

Despite some blanks, the study is exceedingly valuable. It gives important hints for all theoretically and practically interested in ecology and the world of work and should not be missing in any trade union house or environmental center.

Steffen Liebig: Working Time Reduction as a Point of Convergence? Social-ecological work concepts, growth critique and trade union collective bargaining policy. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/Main 2021, 400 pages, 45 euros.


Class struggle is too little

Criticism of the traditional left

by Lothar Galow-Bergemann

(This article published on January 23, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Published in Jungle World #4/2020, January 23, 2020.

Many leftists, who for decades focused on identity politics and forgot about the social question, are practicing self-criticism for good reason, because by doing so they left the interpretation of important social conflicts to liberals, conservatives and fascists. Even if some have lost sight of the working class - it exists and class struggles are necessary. But class struggle today can at best achieve makeshift and unstable successes for individual groups of the working class; it can no longer provide lasting answers to the social question. Because the constraints of capital exploitation block the solution of all decisive questions for the future, social struggles today must directly pose - theoretically as well as practically - the system question. And it is precisely here that the problems with the class struggle begin. The class interest of the working class has long since turned out to be the system-immanent interest of those who depend on the sale of their labor power. There is a lack of system-busting potential.

Class struggle is a number too small for the necessary social struggles. Only struggles that break the theoretical as well as practical fetters of the "interest of the working class" can take on a truly anti-capitalist character. Consider, for example, the question of working time. The digitalization thrust dwarfs everything that capitalism has produced so far in terms of productivity and potential savings for human labor power. In the logic of capital valorization, many more people will become "superfluous." Whoever accepts wage labor as the natural basis of life and puts the wage worker's interest in the center, is driven by only one question: How can we nevertheless maintain the level of employment? If, on the other hand, you keep in mind the fundamental difference between abstract and material wealth, the world could be arranged quite differently for you. We need material wealth to live (food, clothing, technology, science, culture), abstract wealth is needed only for capital utilization (value, money, capital). Because the possibilities for the increase of the material wealth grew exorbitantly and grow further, today all humans would have to work substantially less and could live thereby substantially better - if the society beyond the abstract wealth of the "economical reason" would finally really manage rationally and would place the production and distribution of the material wealth into the center. The result would not be a 30-hour week, but rather a five-hour week, which would no longer have to be a utopia.

The interest of the labor sellers does not help here. Even the most militant workforce and the most "revolutionary" union, as long as it is in its right mind, will not strike down its "own" companies. After all, they can only sell their labor power if it remains on the market. The worse the conditions of capital exploitation are, the narrower the scope for class struggle becomes. A struggle for a reduction of working hours "with full wage and personnel compensation" might still be enforceable for some in a rich country like Germany with a view to a 30-hour week - given very favorable and rather unlikely relations of forces. But even that would be miles away from the necessary turnaround. The fight for good old-age security is just as lacking in perspective if it is waged from the standpoint of work. It is an open secret that anyone who is under 30 today will not have a pension to live on at 80. The radical reduction in weekly and lifetime working hours that is necessary and possible today can work neither with "full staff and wage compensation" nor on the basis of pension insurance. Those who believe this are under the illusion that under conditions of exploding productivity it is still possible to maintain the wage system for masses of people. Class politics is at an end here.

A truly anti-capitalist position takes leave of the standpoint of class interest and says: It's nice that we are running out of work. If the enormous potential of disposable time (Karl Marx), which the development of productive forces gives, is used, masses of people can finally do what until now only a few could do: not spend the whole life with toil and work, but devote themselves to all the beauty that life has to offer. To hell with being a worker and "class identity," you should finally get rid of them.

The "livelihood through gainful employment" model has never been a reality in large parts of the globe. Today, even in the centers of capitalism, it works for fewer and fewer people. It no longer has any perspective, and with it neither does "full staff and wage compensation." What is needed instead is a radical reduction in working hours, with an exit from the wage system and the abstract production of wealth, and an entry into the social appropriation of material wealth. This is already essential for reasons of climate protection. Producing for the dump has become a mainstay of capitalism. Everyone knows, for example, that there are far too many cars. But whoever's livelihood depends on VW, Daimler&Co selling as many of them as possible is trapped. That "the whole place will eventually go to the wall" has become almost common knowledge. The answer immanent in the system is: We must continue to race towards the wall because our lives depend on it.

The destruction of the earth is programmed in this system. The point of view of the interest of the labor sellers does not deviate a millimeter from this logic. That's why the "Fridays For Future" movement regularly hits a rubber wall as soon as jobs are discussed: "You're probably right, and actually I sympathize with you, but tell me what my family and I are supposed to live on in the future," is the tenor. The fight against climate change must therefore go hand in hand with a fight for radical reductions in working hours. The two could fuel each other and develop enormous explosive power. As yet, few of the players are aware of this. Thus, the tentative attempts at rapprochement by trade unions and environmental associations remain trapped in the illusion that climate protection and "full employment" go together. Regrettably, the question of reducing working hours is not considered, not to mention the radical reduction in working hours that would be possible.

But also feminist struggles for a just distribution of reproductive activities, solidarity with refugees, the struggle for a real mobility turnaround, for decent housing for all and many struggles more could flow together in the struggle for radical working time reduction. This could lead to an anti-capitalist transformation movement that would increasingly withdraw more and more areas of life - consumer goods, housing, health, education, science, culture - from market logic and organize them according to criteria of purely material rationality. This would - theoretically as well as practically - raise again and again the question of property and power. But the answer would not be the transfer of property and power to sellers of the commodity labor power, who are becoming increasingly without prospects, but to social - not state - structures and forms of organization, which leave the abstract production of wealth of capital exploitation behind and are already being thought about, for example, in the debate about commons (common property) and other forms of solidarity economic activity.


Why are there so few reasonable and so much absurd Corona protests?

Speech by Lothar Galow-Bergemann

at the vigil "Cross-thinkers" get in the way - stop anti-Semitic conspiracy ranting! on April 17, 2021.

(This article published on 4/27/2021 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Along with the Covid 19 pandemic, hair-raising and dangerous conspiracy fantasies are spreading. People are fabricating about secret plans by evil billionaires to implant microchips in them and about a "Merkel dictatorship" acting on their behalf. The belief that they are at the mercy of malicious, greedy and unimaginably powerful dark forces is just as deep-seated in them as the conviction that they themselves are in legitimate resistance to it. More and more frequently, open anti-Semitism is also expressed, which insinuates that "the Jews" are the real masterminds of evil.

Unfortunately, it cannot be said that what we are currently witnessing at the demonstrations of the alleged "lateral thinkers" has nothing to do with the rest of society. After all, at the latest since the financial and economic crisis of 2008, a great many people believe that "it's all the fault of those up there." Criticism of society is confused with anger at "greedy billionaires", "pack of lies" and "lying press". This works in right-wing, left-wing and "alternative" milieus just as well as in the supposedly "good middle of society.

Yet there are very good reasons for reasonable criticism in the Corona crisis. For this crisis is only in part a natural phenomenon. First and foremost, it is the homemade consequence of an economic system that, without perpetual growth and maximum profit, immediately begins to flounder. Not because of the virus, but because of this economy, masses of people are dying in "non-paying" regions of the world that do not receive vaccines, millions are falling into poverty and hunger worldwide. Even in the richer countries, poverty and existential insecurity are growing, far too many people have to go to work and infect each other in the process. Many fall ill and die only because this economy cannot afford a proper lockdown.

Unfortunately, there is still little resistance to these impositions. An initiative like ZeroCovid, which calls for a lockdown based on solidarity - but a real one, where we don't have to squeeze into the suburban train so that the assembly lines at Daimler keep running - such an initiative has hardly received any attention so far. Their demand for "three weeks paid special leave now" is exactly the right direction. But why do only 100 people come to such a demonstration? And wouldn't it be the unions' very own task to demand exactly that now? - Why are there no strikes to force the closure of plants that are not immediately vital? Where are the demonstrations for lifting patent protection on vaccines?

Instead, people are demonstrating not to criticize the half-heartedness and inconsistency of government measures to protect health, but absurdly to demand their end. Completely ignoring reality, they deny or downplay the pandemic, behaving irresponsibly and endangering the health and lives of their fellow human beings - and their own.

Why are there almost no reasonable protests, but so many absurd ones? Why do more and more people believe hair-raising nonsense? Why do education and intelligence not protect against it? And why do people find together, whom one does not believe to have much in common? Alternative esotericism and economic liberal capitalism fans, Nazis and hippies, leftists and Reich citizens, good citizens and anti-authoritarians...

All of them are convinced that they are deceived and oppressed by "those up there". And what they have in common are misconceptions about capitalism. Some consider it the best and most natural of all worlds and therefore believe that crises can only be caused by incompetent and bad people. The others consider capitalism to be the work of such people from the outset. However - in the consequence they are united.

Opaque systemic causes tempt to personify crises. The belief that dark forces are to blame for injustice, disease, misery, war and crises has a tradition of almost two thousand years in Christian anti-Judaism. Modern anti-Semitism, for which "the Jew" is the personification of evil par excellence, has been able to follow on seamlessly from this. It is no coincidence that current conspiracy fantasies are again permeated by anti-Semitic thought patterns and that more and more outright anti-Semitism is being expressed. History teaches that it can spread furiously in times of crisis. Auschwitz, in the delusion of most Germans, was the elimination of fraudulent greed in the name of honest working people.

Not understanding capital, but running up a storm against the consequences of capital-ism, is like sitting in a prison you know nothing about. The collective freak-out of such prison inmates is fed by irrational conspiracy thinking, which is mixed with quite justified fear for one's own livelihood. The latter fear, however, is quite justified. For the Corona crisis, just like the climate crisis, reveals that the prevailing economic system is not up to existential challenges. Infinite growth is more important to it than people and nature, maximum profit more important than health and quality of life, rising share prices more important than the lives of future generations. This economic system has led us to the dead end in which we now find ourselves. We need a different, more sensible way of doing business, one that can shut down during a pandemic without causing additional suffering. And we need a broad social movement that demands this.

See also: Misanthropy with a Basic Law Fetish. Why the self-proclaimed "lateral thinkers" are actually authoritarian conformists*.


Gretchen Question Religion

As part of our LeMonADe (Last Monday - Analysis and Debate) series of events, we have dealt extensively with the question of the connection between capitalism and religiosity. Here you can find an overview of the resulting recordings.

In his Faust, Goethe has Gretchen ask her suitor, "Now tell me, how do you feel about religion?" 200 years later, the infamous Gretchen question is highly relevant to society. As a symptom of crisis and at the same time as part of the driving forces of world social disintegration, evangelical, Islamist and other fundamentalisms, but also esoteric currents, play a fatal role. Whoever wants to formulate an emancipative counter-perspective, therefore, cannot avoid classifying this development and positioning himself in relation to it. We in the Krisis group agree on this. However, there is no uniform assessment of neo-religiosity. Some see it as a (post)modern phenomenon and emphasize the break with traditional religious ideas, others rather see continuities with pre-modernity.

Reason enough not only to discuss this question, but also to shed some light on its background. In two events in the framework of our LeMonADe series we therefore want to deal with the relationship between religion and capitalism from different points of view.

In this recording from Monday, May 31, we will deal with the phenomenon of neo-religiosity and the significance of the critique of religion for today's critique of capitalism in contrast to the days of Marx. Lecturing and discussing: Ernst Lohoff, Norbert Trenkle, Lothar Galow-Bergemann.

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