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Please Disprupt Capitalism! and The Return of Hope

The old quotation from Gramsci describes our plight: "The old dies and the new cannot come into the world. It is the time of the monster." The Good News is that the time of no alternatives is over. The Bad News is that the wrong alternatives ard discussed. How can we be the heroes of the new storyline? A social security net does not suddenly become worthless. We become heroes of the storyline through enlightenment and data protection.

By Andreja Schneider-Dorr

[This 2017 article is translated abridged on the Internet, www.linksnet.de.]

The future is booming. Reflections on how digitalization will structure our life and work are poured over us like the billions of venture capital that Silicon Valley invests in start-ups. Old and new questions about our economic order are joined to these future visions. First, we will look at the thesis of ending capitalism. Then we look at turbo-capitalism that seems to be fueled by digitalization. How can we become the heroes of the storyline?

The end of capitalism again and again

This is not the first time in the history of capitalism that its end is envisioned. Many express their doubts and misgivings. Jeremy Rifkin sees the zero marginal cost society coming (2014). Wolfgang Streeck analyzes how market expansion strikes its natural limits and commendably gives up on big visions. There are many insightful opinions on the end of capitalism. Those said to be dead live longer.

Everything is possible if we make the effort. That was and is the general narrative of capitalism for many people while a part of the cake. There were several system crashes while everyone still wants the part of the cake subject to the performance dictates. People slaved away under disgusting conditions during the beginnings of industrtialization and its wretched misery. Working- and living conditions became tolerable thanks to the common union struggle for social security and better wages.

The economic miracle of Germany with the social market economy in the 1960s brought many people more social security and prosperity. But life went downhill from the 1970s: the inflation crisis, state indebtedness, growing unemployment and dismantling social rights. The 1990s were years of budget consolidation and the nascent austerity policy. The Dot.com bubble at the beginning of the 2000s triggered an even greater crash, the 2007 financial market crisis. Past crises of capitalism always appeared in phases. Crises reduce resources and possibilities. Everything will be better afterwards. However, the last downturn was seen as the worst capitalist crisis since the 2nd World War. The crisis reveals systemic errors and is not only a crisis cycle. The further decline of growth, the continuing rise of total indebtedness and the growing inequality of income and wealth together fuel a race to the bottom. Instead of genuine reforms, there is an abundance of cheap money. On first view, that may be good and salutary. Germany has a record 44.3 million employed persons and the economy grows almost two percent.

Capitalism and democracy do not seem to like each other. To Germans, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz sees "an economically-based fear" in the unjust distribution of income and taxes. The government underrated the importance of a decent income for the dignity of the person (interview with Stiglitz in sueddeutschen.de, 10/18/2017). Record employment does not mean good jobs and minimum wage does not mean a good wage. Somehow, the diffuse sense that something has fallen apart is everywhere.

In further observations on the life and death in the capitalism tragedy, it seems capitalism has found a new playmate to cause even more folly: digitalization.

Capitalism and digitalization leading the way

For many decades, business has been the crucial place for the production of goods and services...

Business as a coordination form had such success that most economic activities and state regulatory efforts were oriented in business. Protective measures for working persons developed along the assumptions: a person works in service of another and is obliged to foreign-determined work in personal dependence.

In the course of digitalization, business models arise that do without entrepreneurship and without employees.

The business model of our time is the platform. The following dictum is almost the definition of the platform economy: "Uber, the world's largest taxi enterprise, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world's most popular media owner, creates no content. And Airbrb, the world's largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening." This is the advantage of the platform economy over conventional markets: "The Internet is the most powerful mechanism we can imagine to perfectly match individuals needing something and people with something to offer... "

How do the superstars gain their incredible market power? They are celebrated as disrupters of the old economy. Established businesses can be destroyed by disrupting technologies of up-and-coming businesses. The established business recognizes the potential and faces the dilemma without knowing whether to continue with its established business model or to invest in new disrupting business fields...

Is the person the hero of the storyline?

Seen in the light, digital capitalism does not celebrate disruption or the network effect. It celebrates the dismantling of social protection, that branches are destroyed that brought people livelihoods. Profits arising in these business models by trampling on social rights must not be celebrated as disruptive. They despise persons who only serve as a controllable mass for the platforms - whether through our data or through our labor. This is not digital capitalism introducing a revolution in favor of humanity. This is digital feudalism that can subject our life to a hard test. Alone we cannot survive. How can we be heroes of the storyline?

Not cuddling to Silicon Valley would be a start. A social security net does not suddenly become worthless. Risks like sickness, old age, accident, removal and personal bad luck are not only individual.

Instead, we should demand our rights and craft new rights... The European Union would do well to create rights here and guarantee minimum standards in the platform economy. Monopolies should not be supported. Cooperatives must be promoted. We become heroes of the storyline through enlightenment and data protection. We accept amenities and comforts of our brilliant gadgets without knowing what we triggered. Do we buy because Google, Facebook and Amazon want this? Do we pay a fair price?

Do we freely decide at the end or do others decide?


By Horst Eberlein

[This article published on February 5, 2017 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet,  https://religionskritik.blog.rosalux.de.]

The future is lost. The neoliberal utopia is exhausted along with leftist alternatives. The decades of a conservative-orthodox neoliberalism from Thatcher to Kohl and its generalization under the Blair to Schroeder governments and finally its authoritarian deepening and anchoring in the crisis years have brought about social inequalities and a polarization of society that can hardly be controlled. The structural crisis is not solved and cannot be solved in the old frameworks. The attempts to stabilize financial market capitalism only prolong the agony and tear apart the European Union and our societies. However, the situation is not marked by awakening. Rather, the old quotation from Gramsci is valid. "The old dies and the new cannot come into the world. It is the time of the monster." The New Right in its different forms is such a monster.

The political field is polarized between a liberal and an illiberal capitalism, between defending globalized capitalism with changed means (Clinton, Merkel, May and so forth) and turning to a social-national and authoritarian ethno-racist fortress capitalism (Trump, Le Pen, Petry and so forth). The good news is that the time of no alternatives is over. The bad news is that the wrong alternatives are discovered. A solidarity-democratic response to the crisis was missing up to now. The "loss of a general positive idea of the good" dominates (Eribon).

The need for this idea of the good is great. New movements and initiatives constantly put this idea on the agenda. Occupy Wall Street and the campaign for Bernie Sanders, the battle for the Labor Party that often flared up, the militant strike against the new labor laws in France, the Indignados and the rise of Podemos in Spain, the projects for self-organization and solidarity structures like the battles for a leftist government in Greece are examples. The welcoming initiatives for those fleeing to Germany, the demonstrations against CETA and TTIP and the De-growth movement are striking. Many urge a new politics of the good life. But the integrating power helping the new in the world is lacking in Germany, the neoliberal power center of the EU. The unifying power for a change of political direction lacks the solidarity of many. Constituting and making visible the democratic camp or solidarity is the common strategic challenge of the left. Hope and power must meet in a third pole, a pole of solidarity to intervene effectively in the hegemonial constellation, the current line of conflict between "above" and the right wing.

Times of excruciatingly slow developments and sudden turns for the worse

The last decades were only seemingly times of stability. In reality, the international situation has become more threatening. Wars break out or smolder at the southern and eastern borders of the EU. States are destroyed and disintegrate. The attempts to integrate the EU through markets and the Euro brought the EU project to the edge of collapse.

Fear and uncertainty grow where hope for prosperity and social participation prevailed two-and-a-half decades ago. Life cannot continue this way. Politics is now in a permanent crisis mode and state of emergency out of the creative policy of neoliberalism. Years ago one could say barbarism crawled up to us. Now it is running or jogging.

This situation produces tensions that erupted more and more frequently in the last years. Leftist politics must stop combining long-term defensive battlers with very fast acting in open situations. The "proxy war" can quickly become a "movement war" and a standstill. Still, the left is not prepared intellectually, organizationally or politically for a conflicting strategy of changing moments.

We are in a situation in which no change of direction is possible but rather modifications - right-wing and left-wing, authoritarian and democratic. Intense inequality, classes and dislocations in the "descent society" (Nachtwey) are vigorously discussed again. Ever-greater investment programs will be debated as well as lowering the pension age or the displacement of subcontracted labor and precarious employment. In foreign policy, agitators and those seeking cooperative solutions face one another. Some modifications were already achieved: the minimum wage and more flexible rules for pensions at 67. More of this is possible, partial concessions to take the edge off the growing protest without changing the fundamental orientation of politics. The oligarchic power structures of politics, companies and advisory agencies, fortified interests of parts of organized workers and regional locations and institutional blockades reinforce one another on global, EU and nation-state planes. A change of direction must be paid for and this is impossible with the continuance of the austerity policy.

But a neoliberal continuance is not secure. The crisis is too deep. The left must adjust to a political crisis where the ruling elites cannot continue as in the past and previous policy seems neither effective nor legitimate. Therefore, the resistance increases enormously under the banner of the New Right. A new severe financial crisis and economic crises are conceivable at any time, the acute aggravation of international conflicts (even among the super-powers) or massive terrorist attacks, devastating environmental catastrophes and the fast disintegration of the EU after the French presidential election - these results are possible. This has provoked a nervous tension among the rulers that shakes their foundations. The rulers see themselves challenged by the New Right and increasingly share the hopes of the New Right.

In today's situation, all past ideas about leftist policy are put to a test. A perspective of changing direction to the left seems almost hopeless and yet is increasingly urgent and socio-ecological transformation increasingly urgent and more acute. How can the left adjust to these contradictions?

Saying what is is the first revolutionary act. What the left in Germany needs first of all is a consistent analysis and an open strategic discussion... A common action and power perspective must be created and cannot arise spontaneously... This requires uniting perspectives that make possible a common narrative and corresponding practices, not petty polarizing debates. Clarity must be gained to avoid sinking in the broth of endless ambiguities with which anything and everything can be justified.

The three battle lines of the left in this crisis

The social left faces three battle lines in a complicated situation. Firstly, it must defend liberal democracy which it has always rightly criticized on account of its miniaturization to a formal democracy with formal political equality and limited to the political field. The loss of this democracy would open the door to open barbarism. Secondly, it must protest social democracy in its narrowed social-democratic form of a redistributing, paternalistic social state. Its authoritarian "modernization" and austerity policy erosion had a threefold effect.

The left cannot only resist attacks on liberal social democracy. It must, thirdly, develop its own solidarity praxis of social organization and become a charismatic third pole, a pole of solidarity...

The strategic tasks of the left...

Initiatives of a new emancipative and democratic form of the social state could be developed... In today's situation, the governing political caste, the corporations and the super-rich, have refused to finance the community. Our situation is also marked by the normality of corruption and greed, the competition fetish that tears asunder what is common, the web of society - and against its political twin, the radicalizing right-wing populism that seeks protection at the expense of degrading other social groups, preaches hatred and sows violence.

In contrast, we are working on an end of capitalism, on a society Bernie Sanders calls socialism. Free health care, education and affordable housing for every one is part of that vision, free public services from libraries to local public transportation, democratic discussions on the ecological reconstruction of cities, transportation, energy supply and agriculture and much more time for one another and for life... Ways in capitalism leading beyond capitalism are vital... the word socialism is expressible again...

We should make clear how we feel. The right-wing works
with fear, resentment and hatred. We must emphasize solidarity and hope as concrete praxis, not as an appeal... A political left without a strong independent and critical social left anchored in the neighborhoods, enterprise initiatives and movements must fail. The warm stream of hope can draw strength from the experience of solidarity and self-empowerment can speak differently about government...

Tolerance and working in the third pole

When is it possible for the opposition to influence government policy and when is it impossible to form a leftist government because the social and political forces are lacking. A government participation of the Left Party on the federal plane is prohibited. Renunciation on a real politik that takes seriously the claim of fundamental political change would be completely different. The left cannot afford the luxury of nursing and spreading illusions...

We should raise very simple questions: Can pensions protect people from poverty? Is austerity policy responsible? Can the financial sector be rebuilt? Is state investment necessary? Are social and ecological investment programs vital? Should the dominance of the export models be abandoned? What constitutes a real peace policy?

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War on the Poor replaced War on Poverty 01.May.2019 10:16


Happy May Day!
The war on the poor replaced the war on poverty on the quiet. Now the struggle is to remind people that the poor are human and have rights!

SROs - single room occupancy - are a path to community and an imperative alternative to warehousing or imprisoning people. In the frenzy to help capital and hedge fund bumpkins relocate to Portland OR, SROs have been expunged from the collective memory.
The government should do more than help Burger King and McDonald's relocate to China and Japan and make life easier for owners of capital. Checks and balances and separation of powers and procedural justice are part of social democracy and not frivolous decorations!

What a scandal that $8 trillion was given to corporations and households with over one million dollars in the two Trump tax bills - without any hearings! Compromises, concessions, and counter-measures are vital to counter the exploding inequality of the 40-year neoliberal rollback. When the money is returned to HUD, food stamps, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicaid, Pell grants, the Legal Corporation, WIC, Meals on Wheels, after school programs, we will be happy campers. Social security like the social state should be an institution.

FDR saved capitalism by building 170K schools, libraries, community centers, hospitals and 660K miles of roads. Now the government only posts signs warning the homeless!

more at www.freembtranslations.net, www.commondreams.org, www.truth-out.org, www.therealnews.com, and www.onthecommons.org

What you Need to Know About May Day 02.May.2019 00:09

Leo Panitch


For more than 100 years, May Day has symbolized the common struggles of workers around the globe. Why is it largely ignored in North America? The answer lies in part in American labour's long repression of its own radical past, out of which international May Day was actually born a century ago.

The seeds were sown in the campaign for the eight-hour work day. On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of North American workers mobilized to strike. In Chicago, the demonstration spilled over into support for workers at a major farm-implements factory who'd been locked out for union activities. On May 3, during a pitched battle between picketers and scabs, police shot two workers. At a protest rally in Haymarket Square the next day, a bomb was tossed into the police ranks and police directed their fire indiscriminately at the crowd. Eight anarchist leaders were arrested, tried and sentenced to death (three were later pardoned).

These events triggered international protests, and in 1889, the first congress of the new socialist parties associated with the Second International (the successor to the First International organized by Karl Marx in the 1860s) called on workers everywhere to join in an annual one-day strike on May 1 - not so much to demand specific reforms as an annual demonstration of labour solidarity and working-class power. May Day was both a product of, and an element in, the rapid growth of new mass working-class parties of Europe - which soon forced official recognition by employers and governments of this "workers' holiday."

But the American Federation of Labor (AFL), chastened by the "red scare" that followed the Haymarket events, went along with those who opposed May Day observances. Instead, in 1894, the AFL embraced president Grover Cleveland's decree that the first Monday of September would be the annual Labor Day. The Canadian government of Sir Robert Thompson enacted identical Labour Day legislation a month later.

Ever since, May Day and Labour Day have represented in North America the two faces of working-class political tradition, one symbolizing its revolutionary potential, the other its long search for reform and respectability. With the support of the state and business, the latter has predominated - but the more radical tradition has never been entirely suppressed.

This radical May Day tradition is nowhere better captured than in Bryan Palmer's monumental book, Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the Histories of Transgression [From Medieval to Modern] (Monthly Review Press, 2000). Palmer, one of Canada's foremost Marxist labour historians, has done more than anyone to recover and analyze the cultures of resistance that working people developed in practicing class struggle from below. He's strongly critical of labour-movement leaders who've appealed to those elements of working-class culture that crave ersatz bourgeois respectability.

Set amid chapters on peasants and witches in late feudalism, on pirates and slaves during the rise of mercantile imperialism, on fraternal lodge members and anarchists in the new cities of industrial capitalism, on lesbians, homosexuals and communists under fascism, and on the mafia, youth gangs and race riots, jazz, beats and bohemians in modern U.S. capitalism, are two chapters that brilliantly tell the story of May Day. One locates Haymarket in the context of the Victorian bourgeoisie's fears of what they called the "dangerous classes." This account confirms the central role of the "anarcho-communist movement in Chicago [which] was blessed with talented leaders, dedicated ranks and the most active left-wing press in the country. The dangerous classes were becoming truly dangerous."

The other chapter, a survey of "Festivals of Revolution," locates "the celebratory May Day, a festive seizure of working-class initiative that encompassed demands for shorter hours, improvement in conditions, and socialist agitation and organization" against the backdrop of the traditional spring calendar of class confrontation.

Over the past century communist revolutions were made in the name of the working class, and social democratic parties were often elected into government. In their different ways, both turned May Day to the purposes of the state. Before the 20th century was out the communist regimes imploded in internal contradictions between authoritarianism and the democratic purpose of socialism, while most social democratic ones, trapped in the internal contradictions between the welfare state and increasingly powerful capital markets, accommodated to neoliberalism and become openly disdainful of "old labour."

As for the United States, the tragic legacy of the repression of its radical labour past is an increasingly de-unionized working class mobilized by fundamentalist Christian churches. Canada, with its NDP and 30 per cent unionized labour force, looks good by comparison.

Working classes have suffered defeat after defeat in this era of capitalist globalization. But they're also in the process of being transformed: The decimated industrial proletariat of the global North is being replaced by a bigger industrial proletariat in the global South. In both regions, a new working class is still being formed in the new service and communication sectors spawned by global capitalism (where the eight-hour day is often unknown). Union movements and workers' parties from Poland to Korea to South Africa to Brazil have been spawned in the past 20 years. Two more book out of Monthly Review Press - Ursula Huw's The Making of a Cybertariat (2003) and the late Daniel Singer's Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours? (1999) - don't deal with May Day per se, but capture particularly well this global economic and political transformation. They tell much that is sober yet inspiring about why May I still symbolizes the struggle for a future beyond capitalism rather than just a homage to the struggles of the past.

Leo Panitch is emeritus professor of political science at York University, co-editor (with Greg Albo) of the Socialist Register and co-author (with Sam Gindin) of The Making of Global Capitalism (Verso).