THE FAT YEARS ARE OVER

By Brother John

[A neoliberal economic policy has prevailed worldwide since the seventies and the end of the “Fordist production regime” (Hirsch/Roth) of capitalism (named after a special industrial division of labor based on relatively high wages combined with he redistribution of a part of the profits by the social state). This article published in: graswurzelrevolution 301, summer 2005 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.graswurzel.net/301/wahl2.shtml.]


On one side, we witness the state’s concentration on building an expensive security-technical and military-industrial complex financed from the state budget (e.g. the record indebtedness of the US government) and on the other side the state’s reduction to “core personnel” and dismantling the social security systems for refugees, unemployed, pensioners and other marginalized persons in industrial countries. Through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, borrowings of countries of the so-called “third world” are tied to conditions like wage freezes, free trade zones and privatizations whose burning consequences can be seen for example in the revolts against the privatization of Bolivia’s gas deposits.

US president Ronald Reagan and the British “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher were pioneers of this policy in the eighties. Social democrats like Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder only continue this policy today.


PARLIAMENTARY-CAPITALIST POLICY: EVERYTHING FOR GROWTH

“Reforming” capitalism through parliamentary politics is limited by its existential conditions. Production must be profitable to redistribute anything (to return to the old social state-Fordist model). Thus growth is absolutely necessary for this politics. Without growth, there is nothing to redistribute. Under globalized conditions, so-called location features count as growth factors more than ever. A parliamentary policy that does not want to risk companies migrating to low-wage countries must give tax gifts to businesses, provide a cheap infrastructure or press unions to inflexible contract conditions. When the economy does not attract, every social-democratic government is ready to carry out further cuts and go even further than the Kohl government if necessary since growth is the only possibility in the framework of capitalism for social-democratic redistribution policy in the conceivable future.

The economy in Germany in the years of the red-green government did not soar – as the SPD and Greens hoped and expected. Rather mass unemployment threatened on account of the slack growth period. Redistribution would not be guaranteed even in an economic upswing. Amid record sales, corporations and banks do not think of hiring but reduce jobs.

The lesson that the political class draws from this in election contests is continuing and intensifying neoliberalism. The new CDU-FDP government already announces new cuts (commuter charges, night bonuses for nurses, partial education financing, special classes for the unemployed, higher sales taxes, abolition of termination protection). When the last neoliberal reform and the last cuts in the social state proved ineffective, neoliberalism was not put in question. Rather the “reforms” (an empty term long appropriated by the rightwing) were not incisive and radical enough, it was argued. Neoliberalism as the “regime” of capitalism can still make a fool of itself in low-growth times. Neoliberalism is still not discussed as a cause in public discourse.

On the other hand, the political class combats every social movement from below for endangering profitable production and new growth. From the view of the political class, a workers’ movement can only be counter-productive in the capitalist system under global conditions because it contributes to the migration tendency of businesses.

This absurd policy of holding to capitalist growth under global conditions was promoted for decades in media discourse and described as reasonable because it was flanked by economic thinking in manager categories. In neoliberalism, the manager of a corporation replaces the old-fashioned family businessperson who retained a remnant of responsibility for his long-term local workers. A manager is no longer liable for his measures. He can leave a sinking ship either with record dismissals or for a better salary with the competition. Business crises “release” the extra managers more unscrupulously than the old-fashioned entrepreneurs through social plans, health shrinking, dismissals, lean production, flexibilized working conditions and multiple tasks for fewer and fewer employees. Since the manager cannot saw off the branch on which he sits, he counters every new crisis with a harsher approach. Successful crisis managers receive dream bonuses and acknowledgment at least of their own self-obsessed milieu. Catastrophic consequences of this ideology like the smashing of Internet- and new market heavyweights and many aspiring start-up firms toward the end of the nineties are noted with a shrug of the shoulders and immediately swept under the carpet without a change of course. Finally, the absolutizing of the management principle reached politics and fortified the alleged lack of alternatives of neoliberal thinking and acting. However some citizens have now become aware of the social cynicism. A large part of the decried “political weariness” can be explained from this cynicism. The absurdity is still possible that many citizens will now vote for the continuance and intensification of neoliberal policy.

THE LOST INTEGRATION FUNCTION OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Through the absolutizing of neoliberal thinking and acting, something is apparently lost in the political enterprise that is part of every parliamentary democracy and its system of rule: the political party integration of a large part of the ruled into the system…

The memory of the “left”, particularly the parliamentary left and its voters, is short-lived in the neoliberal media age. For critical citizens and/or leftists, the newly discovered social democratic illusion conflicts with their historical experiences as libertarians and anti-parliamentarians. Every generation must make its own experiences, even with the foreseeable danger of either senselessly wasting energy or only offering a new springboard for those who want to jointly govern and become reconciled with neoliberalism.

Ex-communists won in Eastern Europe like Bulgaria when the “better” social democrats voted as convinced Europeans who preferred to join the capitalist economic power Europe today rather than tomorrow. Growth is clicking in eastern European countries… There is trouble brewing.

The prescriptions discussed by the “democratic left” are both old-fashioned and sensible. Different variants of progressive taxation are proposed with which state employment programs could be financed. More purchasing power should arise on the demand side and more growth and more employment in the private sector of the economy.

Why hasn’t the social-democratic policy of progressive taxation succeeded? The contradictions of capitalist economics have not been attacked; many loopholes were opened up for corporations. Today in the time of deregulated capitalist globalization, these contradictions obviously include production shifts to low-wage and low-tax foreign countries. Threatening de-localization is often enough in the public discourse to end “reform discussions” in this direction. The dimension of progressive taxation is reduced with every government takeover of a social-democratic party…

HERETICAL POSITIONS: MAKING EXPROPRIATION (DISPOSSESSION) CONCEIVABLE AGAIN

Hardly anyone today dares the most primitive variant of leftist-reformist policy, financing the social state by cutting the armament budget…

The fat years are over! (7) Three cheers for dispossession! Expropriation instead of representation!

MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITY AND INDUSTRIAL ANTIMILITARISM

…Managers with their decisions should be responsible when firms go bankrupt according to the standards of neoliberal ideology… The responsibility principle is valid as the causation principle is valid in environmental law…

Germany under red-green has risen to the second largest arms exporter of the world. It is a scandal that leftist government critics no longer make this a theme… Arms production (like nuclear energy production) cannot be justified even in times of the worst unemployment…

The criticism of capitalism is joined here with the strategy of overcoming capitalism and building a self-organized socialism that does not need any state as distributor and controller. The direct nonviolent actions of the affected could be direct forms of democracy without representatives. Whoever wants to effectively fight capitalism must be clear about the goal. The new extra-parliamentary battles can only be waged with clear social goals…