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Chaos. The new age of revolutions

The result of the whole game is an unproductive permanent income - a tribute - for the managers and shareholders of the financial institutions, while all other players are gradually driven into bankruptcy. And yet today, on closer inspection, the supposedly invincible opponent stands on feet of clay. The global tribute system only works because elected governments channel our tax money through countless open and hidden channels into the hands of the richest one percent and in the end convince us that it is all based on "market success". The first step to overcoming this system is to bring it into the public eye, to challenge its legitimacy and make it the subject of political debate.

In the book Chaos. The New Age of Revolutions, there is a 16-point program for social-ecological restructuring.

1. Abolish all direct and indirect subsidies to activities harmful to the environment and the general interest, in particular in the energy and transport sectors, manufacturing industry, the financial sector and agriculture
2. Conversion of energy systems to decentralized renewable energies in the hands of citizens and end of fossil resource extraction by 2030 at the latest.
3. Conversion of agriculture to agroecology and food sovereignty, as called for by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, among others.
4. Consistent and rapid restructuring of the transport system from car traffic to public systems based on renewable energies and a reduction in air traffic (ban on short-haul flights, etc.).
5. Massive taxation of climate- and environment-damaging technologies and large incomes and assets to finance socio-ecological restructuring.
6. Ban on all arms exports, as was the case in Japan, for example, from 1967 to 2014.
7. A ban on nuclear weapons, as now demanded by 122 UN countries.
8. Effective ceilings for socially acceptable rents and the transfer of private real estate companies to common property in accordance with Article 15 of the Basic Law.
9. Conversion of the private financial sector into ownership and legal forms oriented towards the common good; lending according to social-ecological criteria, not according to return.
10. Conversion of companies above a certain size into public-interest ownership and legal forms in employee ownership.
11. Ending the global apartheid regime: freedom of movement for migrants and refugees, secure entry into the EU, recognition of climate refugees and extended right of residence.
12. Implementation of global social rights: Access to health care, education, clean water, healthy food, energy, adequate housing and culture must be granted as inalienable human rights, independent of money, market and origin.
13. New trade rules that serve human rights, environmental protection and social security, instead of WTO, TTIP, CETA and JEFTA
14. A moratorium on risk technologies, including synthetic biology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, geoengineering, fracking, transhuman artificial intelligence and 5G technology, and comprehensive civil society scrutiny based on the precautionary principle.
15. Introduction of citizens' councils for social transformation, including a citizens' convention for the drafting of a new EU Constitution.
16. Establishment of non-commercial media that consistently pursue these issues and activate citizens to get involved.

It is often said that in the age of globalization, politics can no longer be conducted at national level. This is undoubtedly true for some policy areas, but not for others. Points 1-6, for example, can be immediately translated into policy at national level. Every national government can immediately participate in a ban on nuclear weapons (point 7) by joining the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and increase the pressure on the nuclear states to abolish nuclear weapons. Changes in the ownership and legal forms of large companies and financial institutions as well as in the real estate sector (points 8-10) are possible on the basis of the German Basic Law (and also other national constitutions), but they require more staying power, protection against capital flight and, in some cases, changes in EU law and international investment protection agreements. Comprehensive social rights and the strengthening of rights for migrants and refugees (points 9-10) can to a considerable extent already be achieved at national level, even if new EU-wide and global rules of the game are also needed. Other trade rules, by their very nature, require international agreements. A moratorium on risk technologies can be implemented in national law and at EU level, but to be effective in the long term, a global regulatory institution, e.g. in the UN framework, is needed. Citizens' councils and media for change can be set up everywhere at local, regional and supra-regional level.


Introduction in the book Chaos. The new age of revolutions by Fabian Scheidler: Vienna 2017.

On the 25th. On January 25, 2017, a few days after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, two things happened simultaneously: The Dow Jones Index of the New York Stock Exchange reached the 20,000 point threshold for the first time to the cheers of investors. At the same time, the hands of the Doomsday Clock moved to two and a half minutes to twelve - the closest they had come since the first US hydrogen bomb was detonated in 1953. The clock reflects the assessments of leading nuclear and environmental scientists about the dangers of nuclear war, climate chaos and risk technologies.1 The excitement of investors and the approaching midnight for mankind: The fact that our economic system is on a crash course with the planet and its inhabitants can hardly be expressed more clearly. What the stock market celebrates is our undoing . The result of this collision is growing global chaos on all levels: in politics, in the economy, in our minds and in natural life-support systems. In my book The End of the Mega Machine. History of a Failing Civilization, I have described how the aggressive system of endless money-making and militarized states that emerged in Europe 500 years ago, while creating enormous wealth for a smaller part of the world's population, has been associated with war, genocide, environmental devastation, exploitation, and misery for the greater part from the very beginning.2 So for many people in the Global South, chaos is not new. For Europeans, too, the expansion of the mega-machine over the last 500 years has repeatedly been associated with phases of destructive chaos and excessive violence, from the Peasant Wars in the 16th century to the present day. Century up to the world wars . In 1930 the Italian philosopher and communist Antonio Gramsci wrote in prison: "The old world is dying, the new has not yet been born: it is the time of the monsters "3 We too are once again living in a "time of the monsters". But for all the similarities, there is a decisive difference from earlier systemic crises: Today, the nuclear threat is intensifying again due to the rapid destruction of the biosphere and the question of survival for mankind in space.

Chaos and silence

In the face of this situation, however, public debate is worryingly missing the most important questions. There is no broad debate about a fundamental change in our economic system. The fact that the German government, under pressure from the United States, is refusing to accede to the UN Treaty on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, which 122 countries have now signed, is worth at best a marginal note to most of the media.4 The survival of all of us is at stake . Climate news, when there is no UN summit, is usually mixed, although it should be the title story . For example, the reference to a NASA study from 2014, which states that the huge West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to break up irreversibly . The resulting sea-level rise of up to four meters is already unstoppable.5 Coastal cities such as New York, Hamburg, Shanghai, Calcutta and Alexandria, although still standing, are actually already history. But there is a widespread silence about this. The failure of an entire civilization no longer seems worthy of headlines . Leading climate scientists repeatedly point out that we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030 if we are to have even a 50:50 chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees and preventing a further escalating catastrophe.6 But the EU is on its way to miss even its far too low target of 40 percent. In Germany, emissions are rising instead of falling, mainly due to the unchecked booming car, truck and air traffic - as if no one here had ever heard the word climate change before .7 There is no serious discussion about this dramatic failure of politics, which has life-threatening consequences for all of us and especially for our children and grandchildren. In the supposed knowledge and science society, facts count for little if they can be suppressed to make a profit for a while longer. On the occasion of the 2011 climate summit in Durban (South Africa), where the heads of government from all over the world met, the former chairman of the UN Climate Change Council Rajendra Pachauri put it this way: "To be honest: To be honest, no one here pays any attention to science "8 It is not only Donald Trump who has established himself in the post-factual age, but also most of the political elites even in Europe.

And some of the populations on both sides of the Atlantic support them in this. The reason for this is easy to see: Facing the crisis of life on earth and reacting appropriately to it would mean completely restructuring not only some infrastructures but our entire economic system. The construction of an economy based on the common good instead of profit, on fair distribution instead of endless growth, is all the more urgent because the current system is helping a tiny part of the world's population to acquire absurd wealth, while 800 million people are starving and billions are struggling for their economic existence. But the political establishment in the industrialized countries has so far refused to embark on a fundamental transformation towards social and ecological justice. In recent decades, rich interest groups, which seek to defend their privileges even at the cost of a devastated planet, have been able to expand their access to the state apparatus considerably. As a result of their success, chaos is growing and centrifugal forces are increasing.

Deadly attempts at order In the mist of this chaos the outlines of new authoritarian attempts at order are emerging . In the United States, an "ultra-right-wing revolution" is in full swing, aimed at wiping out the social achievements of the last 200 years.9 Its leaders control all three pillars of state power, from Congress to the White House to the judiciary . In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdo­an is building an autocratic regime with thousands of judges, prosecutors, journalists, opposition politicians and critics imprisoned. In the EU, too, a kind of slow-motion coup d'Útat has taken place in recent years: Non-elected bureaucrats of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the EU Commission now dictate policy in many countries, far from democratic control . Elections have little influence on this, as the case of Greece has shown. This profoundly anti-democratic system serves primarily to maintain a continuous flow of money towards the wealthy, who thus appropriate the remaining public goods. In the structural crisis of the world economy, in which it is increasingly difficult to make a profit from the production and sale of goods and services, the "welfare state for the super-rich" is taking shape more and more clearly (cf. the chapter on "tribute"). As the legitimacy of governments crumbles in the face of the growing divide between rich and poor, external enemies are becoming increasingly important in creating cohesion. The permanent "war on terror", of which today everyone knows that it produces not fewer but more terrorists, serves in this sense as an attempt to cement the disintegrating political order and at the same time to justify the dismantling of civil rights...


The Modern Trubute System and the Illusion of Free Markets
Fabians blog, April 11, 2018

It has always been one of the dirty secrets of capitalism that it has very little to do with free markets and has been inseparably intertwined with state structures of rule from the very beginning. Early modern states granted monopoly rights to merchants and bankers like the Fuggers in return for loans with which the sovereigns paid for mercenaries and armaments. It was only through these loans that the newly forming territorial states were able to build their power. And only through the monopolies could the merchants and bankers achieve the enormous concentration of capital in their hands, without which capitalism would be unthinkable. The first joint-stock companies of the 17th century were creations of states and were endowed by them with charter letters, monopoly rights and even military means.[1] To this day, states secure trade routes for private companies worldwide and enforce property rights - often against massive resistance from local populations, for example when it comes to opening up new copper mines or open-cast mines, building pipelines or driving small farmers away for palm oil plantations.

Over the centuries, a number of other methods have also been developed by states to keep the machinery of endless money exploitation going. Three strategies are of particular importance: subsidies, unproductive income from property rights and appropriation through debt. This trinity of the tribute economy becomes increasingly important as the global economy becomes more unstable, because it provides permanent cash flows even when profits can hardly be made on the market by selling goods and services.

Companies on the drip

In almost all countries of the world there is a complex jungle of subsidies, through which private companies are continuously subsidised with taxpayers' money. In recent decades, this network of subsidies has become a kind of heart-lung machine for the ailing capitalism. A large part of the 500 largest corporations on earth would have long since gone bankrupt without the massive support of taxpayers' money. Let's look at the most powerful industries one by one:

The oil, gas and coal industries are subsidized with around 500 billion dollars every year according to estimates by the extremely conservative International Energy Agency[2] This does not yet include the much greater damage caused by climate change that this industry is causing - and for which it has paid practically nothing so far - and which it is still paying. Also not included are the costs of the wars over oil and the military securing of pipelines and tanker routes, which are also paid for with taxpayers' money [3].

The gigantic oil subsidies also provide massive support for the crisis-ridden automotive industry worldwide. If the true cost of oil were to be passed on to petrol prices, driving would be unaffordable for most people and the industry would collapse. Moreover, in every country in the world, the construction and maintenance of roads swallows up far more money than is collected through motor vehicle taxes - a subsidy worth billions that gives the car industry a decisive advantage over rail transport. The Federal Environment Agency has calculated that car traffic in Germany, if environmental damage and accidents are included, costs the general public 59 billion euros more each year than the tax authorities collect through car-related taxes and fees. [4] In addition, there are massive direct subsidies. For the so-called scrappage scheme alone after the financial crisis, five billion euros of taxpayers' money flowed into Germany, and in the USA the government even spent 80 billion dollars to save GM and Chrysler, ten billion of which were ultimately lost to the taxpayers in the long run. [5]

The aircraft industry produces the fastest growing share of greenhouse gases and pays nothing for the resulting damage. Its infrastructure, especially the construction of airports, is almost exclusively paid for by the taxpayer. The BER airport near Berlin alone has already swallowed up five billion euros, the equivalent of about one million daycare places. Aviation fuel is not taxed worldwide. Air traffic is also excluded from the UN climate negotiations. Aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing receive billions in direct and indirect state subsidies, which are regularly the subject of trade disputes between the EU and the USA [6].

Virtually all the major banks in the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain and many other countries would no longer exist today if they had not been saved with billions of taxpayers' money since 2008. The same applies to some of the world's largest insurance groups such as AIG or Allianz.

In Germany alone, the bank bailouts for the taxpayers resulted in a total of about 60 billion euros, which is the same amount as all German schools together cost per year.7] The alleged "rescue packages for Greece" also served almost exclusively to save the banks, via the Greek treasury, and almost nothing has reached the Greek citizens: 206 billion euros from the first two rescue packages went to the private banks with which the Greek government had taken on debts, only 9.7 billion benefited the state budget. 8]

The central banks of the US, the EU and Japan have pumped the incredible sum of nine trillion dollars into the financial system since 2008 to save the markets from collapsing [9] A single month from the ECB's securities programme would have been enough to solve Greece's debt crisis. Instead, the money flowed to private banks. [10] Since 2016 this has included the purchase of shares in addition to government bonds. The ECB alone has spent around 80 billion euros on this [11] This artificially raises share values for shareholders.
Silicon Valley's IT companies have built their capital on computer technologies that have been developed over decades by government research institutions financed by taxpayers' money, in particular the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These technologies have been made available to Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and others for free. There is not a single technology in an iPhone that has not been government-funded,[12] so the government has acted as a research department for these companies. The corporations in turn privatised the lavish state gifts and used them to develop proprietary software that forms the basis of their wealth and power. This system is protected by state patent law and the refusal of most governments to take effective action against the monopolies of these corporations[13].

The pharmaceutical industry receives subsidies worth billions, among other things via public research institutions. The EU, for example, is pumping 2.5 billion euros into the pharmaceutical industry through the "Innovative Medicines Initiative" (IMI). A trinational research team has scrutinized the program and concluded that the program serves "almost exclusively to subsidize industry via the detour of research"[14] The IMI is only the tip of the iceberg in this regard; large parts of the public university research in the area of "life science" primarily serve the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. In the USA, two thirds of pharmaceutical research is funded by state subsidies, which amount to approximately 30 billion dollars annually; the profits from the mostly overpriced drugs, on the other hand, are completely privatized. [15]

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