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Justice for the Weaker: Book Review

The ice age man is Maurer's metaphor for the homo oeconomicus who ignores all human feelings.. Maurer shows how empire in history based only on the power of the bayonnet destroyed its own state-supporting middle class and shared values and was consecrated to destruction.. The greed for resources and slaves led to a military overreach.

Ulrich Maurer's new book "Ice Age - Coup of Capital or Renaissance of the Left" urges dignified life for all people across all party lines

By Tobias Salander, historian, Switzerland

[This book review published in: Zeit-Fragen February 2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://wwwzeit-fragen.de.]

This is a time of boundless globalization, permanent "war on terrorism," unbridled plundering of resources, climate change, exploding social inequality, starvation of millions of people, limitation of civil rights won over centuries, undermining and flagrant violation of the torture prohibition by the strongest democracy on the planet, privatization of vital necessities like water, health care, public infrastructure and security of the army, increasing disintegration even of western democracies and manipulation by sly and crafty PR-strategies and their sponsors in the background. A remembering, stopping and concentrating on the essentials of a dignified life is also clear in this time.


Pioneering books with very different social origins have appeared. Norbert Blum's "Justice - A critique of `Homo Oeconomicus'" was already discussed in Zeit-Fragen. In the next issue, Heinrich Wohlmeyer's "Global Sheep Cry Out Against the Decline and Fall" will be reviewed. Another approach that arrives at nearly identical conclusions thou9gh from a very different background comes from the pen of the parliamentary leader of the Left party in the Bundestag, the lawyer Ulrich Maurer born in 1948 in Stuttgart. From 1990 to 2003, Ulrich Maurer was a member and domestic policy spokesperson of the SPD - board of directors and member of the SPD presidium from 1996 to 1999. After an open letter against the neoliberal positions of Gerhard Schroeder, Maurer resigned from the SPD in 2005 and was elected later in 2005 to the Bundestag as the top candidate of the alternative WASG party (Labor and Social Justice) of Baden-Wurtemburg. He was firmly convinced leaving the SPD was necessary to remain a social democrat today.

Leftist catholic committed to catholic social doctrine or secular thinkers championing Ludwig Erhard's social market economy will be greatly strengthened by Ulrich Maurer's book as a leftist viewing the world with a personal focus.


To anticipate the quintessence, the German socialist Maurer proposes the Swiss model of direct democracy as a peace model. Maurer writes: "A humane society needs nothing so much as the restoration of community. Three chances exist on the political plane: 1. Expansion of citizen participation and direct democracy through referendums on all political planes, 2. A renaissance of cooperative thinking and 3. Building and strengthening communal self-government." (Maurer, p.200).

Who are the supporters of human c0ommunity from below? Maurer's future-oriented goal is beyond all ideological gulfs and dislocations. "Resistance to the neoliberal hegemony comes today from the left and increasingly from the catholic camp and the Islamic world." Like the left, all religions set values over the economy.


"You cannot serve God and mammon," we read in the Gospel of Matthew. Believers and leftists are natural allies. "Under the conditions of market imperialism, Marx' dictum `religion is opium of the people' cannot claim absolute validity today." Social engagements can be grounded religiously - from the personal orientation by the churches and the interest prohibition in Christianity and Islam. Maurer concludes: "The left must understand at last it was greatly mistaken with its militant atheism. In today's Germany, differences exist in the analysis of modern predatory capitalism. The program of the Catholic Worker movement on the 2005 Bundestag election could have been signed by all candidates of the Left party." (p.253f)


In exciting and illuminating historical analogies, Maurer shows how empire in history based only on the power of the bayonet destroyed its own state-supporting middle class and shared values and was consecrated to destruction demanding a high blood toll. In the example of the Roman Empire, he showed convincingly how the greed for resources and slaves led to an overreach of the military machine, an impoverishment of the broad masses and an unspeakable decadence of the elites and ultimately collapse. Transferred to the empire of the US, this power structure as invincible as it may seem survives and threatens to drag the world into its decline and fall. With the help of the East Roman Empire, Maurer revealed that the decline could be stopped through reflection on common values and re-establishment of a state-supporting free middle class and its flourishing culture maintained for over 1000 years. Without this culture, the treasures of ancient philosophers and natural scientists could never have been preserved and made fruitful in the renaissance of the former West Roman Empire.

Maurer concludes from this historical process: there is no historical chance of survival without identification of broad sectors of the population with the idea of the state and with an existing value system. The plutocratic feudal system in the US is consecrated to destruction... The middle classes of European states are "mainly caught in an ideology that persuades them they are structurally allied more with feudal masters than with proletarians and have-nots." (p.144) The seductive message of belonging to the masters and not the servants is seemingly overpowering. Nevertheless Maurer sets great hope in Europe, not in the neoliberal model of today's European Union (EU). The French and Dutch people said a clear No to this model when they rejected the constitutional draft.


Maurer's advice to this EU in its permanent expansion is supported by the left in Switzerland. "The idea of the `United States of Europe' degenerates through the constant expansion of the EU to an ideological pseudo-superstructure in establishing a neoliberal free trade zone. The competition commission of the EU, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are the most important political agents of neoliberalism." (p.145). But what is Europe? What characterizes Europeans? "Being a European has nothing to do with descent and blood but with democratic values, rejection of torture and capital punishment and equality of the genders." (p.222) Europe is the only realpolitik alternative to the hegemony and downfall of the Anglo-American Empire.


"A Europe from below out of countries with equal social and ecological standards, dignified minimum wages, uniform and just tax rates, a Europe as an ecological social state could greatly inspire people." (p.223) Alone nation states are too weak to resist the extortion of international capital and its overwhelming power...


In his masterful analysis of globalization, hedge funds, Gerhard Schroeder's neoliberal sellout, manipulation of the population by the mass media and PR-teams and the US war on terrorism as a pretext for the neoliberal plundering of the planet - that the invisible hand of the market needs an invisible fist - and in describing the slow-forming counterbalance against the monopolar world order of US graces in Latin America, Russia, China and India, Maurer is in the best company with Michel Chossudovsky, Jurgen Elsasser, Thierry Meyssan, Daniele Ganser and many other lucid analysts of the "coup de tat of capital," hidden warfare and neoliberalism.


Maurer's book deserves a wide readership. His analyses and proposed solutions leave no one cold except for "ice age persons," Maurer's metaphor for the homo oeconomicus who ignores all human emotions and allows his consciousness to be distorted. The old antagonistic roles "social existence" and "ideological consciousness" are reconciled in Maurer's personal anthropology. In that anthropology, a person is not merely an "ensemble of social conditions" (Marx) or an "exploited product of economic factors" (neoliberalism). Rather a dignity is inherent in every person as a person hallowed as God's creature and image and inviolable in his dignity as a being of nature.

Everyone should be blessed after his or her own fashion in the new resolution against the misanthropic war alliance with its grasshopper economic system. Everyone can live in his or her little differences and forge the common as a foundation for a humane world. Who would object to Ulrich Maurer's goal? Only the few profiteers of globalization, the tiny number of multi-billionaires who in their boundless greed will never find a meaning of life. That meaning only occurs in interpersonal conduct.


The idea of European unity, the dream of the United States of Europe, seems very far away now. Nevertheless this is the only realpolitik alternative to the hegemony and downfall of the Anglo-American Empire. This dream could inspire people as long as it is not only for enforcing a neoliberal market regime. The French did not reject the constitutional draft of the EU because they opposed the idea of European unity. They rejected a Europe dominated by neoliberalism.

A Europe from below made of countries with equal social and ecological standards, dignified minimum wages, uniform and just tax rates, a Europe as an ecological social state could greatly inspire people. It would be

a Europe that frees its energy production from oil and develops its pioneering role in using solar energy for industrial mass production;
a Europe that observes the principles of international law and does not demand political, economic or cultural submission as a price for cooperating with other states;
a Europe that opens its markets for products while safeguarding social human rights and renouncing ruinous ecological development;
a Europe that offers its medical research, know-how and medicines to poor societies and values humanity higher than the profit interests and patent protections of its corporations;
a Europe that understands itself as a bridge to the Islamic world, esteems foreign cultures and does not destroy them;
a Europe that encourages an economics and culture around the Mediterranean Sea based on diversity and mutual respect;
a Europe that is not involved in military interventions and offensive wars but orients its military capacities only to defense;
a Europe that makes available its technological accomplishments worldwide without demanding concessions to its desires in power politics;
a Europe that respects human rights even in grappling with terrorism and does not torture or cooperate with torturers;
a Europe that renounces on exporting its model of democracy with money or violence and relies only on the power of example;
a Europe that supports a reform of the United Nation reflecting the majority conditions on this planet and strengthens the UN's monopoly of force in preventing oppression and genocide.

Such a Europe would survive in times when the hegemony of one-seventh of humanity over everyone else can no longer be legitimated. Such a Europe could be an example that ending this imbalance does not require war and chaos.


Leftist policy may never be limited to combating the false ideology and cynicism of the neoliberal system. The motivating power of the positive example is vital alongside the battle for the hearts and minds of people. The left must prove in practice how people can successfully satisfy fundamental needs themselves without profit orientation and self-enrichment.

The struggle over the expansion of public health care will only be successful when people experience self-government and state action positively. A resuscitation of the lost ethic of public administration is necessary. Service to the community must be seen as a moral responsibility. Administrative employees or officials should understand themselves as service providers obligated to the citizens, not as uncritical servants of an authoritarian state. Strict controls or even criminal prosecution will not prevent irresponsibility and corruption among authorities as long as the public sector is merely understood as any business where employees serve out their working hours.

This claim must be an obligation for leftist officials and public employees. It makes no sense to defend a flawless socialist theory and then fail in local concrete praxis. It is also senseless to wait for the collapse of the new capitalist feudal system dominating the world before achieving noticeable improvements on a small scale. Overcoming this system begins locally in concrete praxis and often with small steps. Democratic and self-governed forms of organization opposing neoliberalism must be won gradually. With a crash of the dominant world economic system (now foreseeable), building new structures of neighborly solidarity and regional self-support can be vital for survival. A comprehensive solution that could replace neoliberalism, as a new economic and social paradigm without falling into the error of command socialist one-party dictatorship has not yet been worked out in detail. We may not begin building lifeboats when the ship has already sunk.

Ulrich Maurer: Eiszeit: Staatsreich des Kapitals Oder Renaissance der Linken, 2007
(Ice Age: Coup of Capital or Renaissance of the Left)

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