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For a Future of Solidarity and Justice

The European social model is an alternative to the American mini-welfare state. The irrationality of finance capitalism appears in that the stock price rises while the value of labor falls. The economy produces more every year with fewer persons. Labor is robbed of its dignity.

By Reinhard Gaede

[This press release of the BRSD, the alliance of religious socialists in Germany, at the 31st German Evangelical Church Day in Koln 2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.brsd.de.]

The Alliance of Religious Socialists in Germany (BRSD) founded in 1926, hosted a conference on November 17/18, 2006 for education, media and art. The participants passed a resolution to strengthen the watchman office of Christians and civil society as subjects of action and emphasized the social and legal tasks of the state. They recalled the Social Declaration of both churches: "For a Church in Solidarity and Justice." Ten years after this memorandum, the participants asked: Have the churches developed according to their claim and mission? How must justice and solidarity be created today? How must the structures of the church be a model?

Dr. Franz Sabers, pastor and professor of social ethics in Marburg and spokesperson for ethics and social policy in Hessen and Nassau, distinguished between the European social model and the American understanding of the state. A state championing dignified living conditions and obligated to balancing social oppositions is in no way a foregone conclusion. This obligation of the state characterizes the European social model and also distinguishes it from the American conception of the state. Since the 1990s, a creeping adjustment of European policy to the model of the American welfare state has occurred. The new motto of the social state is: the social state is only responsible for the truly needy and if necessary can guarantee a basic security. Whoever wants more may privately insure through private assets... The European social model seeks a socially just order while the American focuses on money. The churches with their emphasis on personal responsibility could approach and legitimate the American model of a mini-welfare state. This danger must be averted.

Dr. Ernst-Ulrich Huster, professor of political science at the University of Giessen and the evangelical academy of Rhineland-Westphalia in Bochum sees caritas and diakonia, has concentrated on the consequences of social exclusion. S0called service centers sprout from the ground like mushrooms in the summer rain. Debt advisory services are hardly enough. The need for assistance to children and youth is immense." Both churches stressed the problem of unemployment and social exclusion at the end of the 20th century. "The asymmetrical structural distribution in Germany, Europe and worldwide is not identified, analyzed and made known as a cause for social polarization and exclusion." Seeking "the best for the city" (Jeremiah 29,7) is more necessary than individual actions.

Dr. Friedhelm Hengsbach, (ret.) professor of Christian social ethics in Frankfurt, sees effects of the Social Declaration on social policy at that time but criticizes the "change of sides of recent declarations of both churches by turning away from distribution justice and repeating a rhetoric of personal responsibility. The Social Declaration is more actual than ten years ago. The poverty risk has increased; working conditions are more insecure with greater work tempo, shortage of time and mental damage. Solidarity security against social risks, the question of the compatibility of family and occupation, is decided to the disadvantage of women. An ecological-social market economy with alternative transportation- and energy systems is not in sight. Rather "the irrationality of finance capitalism" appears: "the stock price rises while the value of labor falls."

Paul Schobei, director of "Industrial Pastoral Care" in Stuttgart, lamented: "Nothing has changed for the better ten years after the Social Declaration. The economy produces more every year with fewer persons. 4 billion unemployed are victims of exclusion on the market. Social services are mercilessly cut or ruthlessly privatized... Work is hidden in a million ways like an unused treasure. Unemployment is financed instead of work. Tons of thousands of youths are without training. While some live in want without work, others slave to death." Longer working hours instead of shorter hours is the rule. "Work is not a commodity," must be announced in a new social declaration. At present labor is "shamelessly robbed of its rights and dignity. Poverty despite work is a scandal. A minimum wage law must prevent this. Joint-determination, protection from unlawful termination and the right to collective bargaining must be assured.

"Precarious work" with time limits to working conditions creates an "industrial nomadism," hinders life-planning and founding families. While incomes and assets of the rich and profits of corporations are spared, personal risks like sickness, care, old age and also social risks like unemployment are "outsourced" from welfare state solidarity and left to private provisions. The churches must find and continue "those central threads of capitalism criticism as expressed in catholic social teaching. They must demand the "primacy of politics" over the market.

Tax justice and solidarity must be defined as immediate political measures. A new social declaration must oppose corruption and self-enrichment. The churches must confess in no uncertain terms: "capitalism is sin... The economy is not an enrichment institute for a few. We are still a values-society, not a securities society." The legal profession and prophesy are necessary. As an advocate of the poor, the church can make visible God's goodness and philanthropy.

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