Between the end of feudalism and a future society, the bourgeois epoch is spread out like a battlefield on which everything is civic and cosy so long as the countries, between military wars, can revel in mere financial wars and economic crises.
Happily, the much vaunted bourgeoisie has lost its capacity for war to the same extent that it has shrunk to being a criminal clique; if it still starts one it has already lost it. With its remaining energy it carries out financial wars, always also directed against the aggressor himself, and in which the bourgeoisie, as a dominant class, goes under, along with its sham democracy.
Economic crises are also social ones, and, as such, pose risks. If there is a revolutionary potential in a society, the ruling stratum, in order not to be endangered, will avoid an economic crisis or, if it is unavoidable, will contain it. However, if it succeeds in suppressing the revolutionary forces and replaces them with a social democracy, whose left wing is indeed not averse to the revolution, but only on condition that it occurs at the right point in time, which is to say never, one can then not only allow an economic crisis without endangering oneself but can also stage one, with a view to profits, which otherwise can never be as effectively generated; for the tax payers’ money stream does not even dry up when the speculative house of cards collapses.
The economic crisis since 2007 is the first financial war in history that has not broken out as a catastrophe for humanity, but was planned for twenty years by the financial industry. What was looming did not go unnoticed by critical minds, which also warned of it. However, in this kind of media arena criticism has no function. It doesn’t have to be forbidden, since it isn’t even heard in the first place. Its thoughtful voice drowns in the din of the mainstream.
Everyone who operates today in the public arena – the journalist, the politician, the scholar – highly prizes belonging to the mainstream. It is not questionable to say what everyone is saying; what should be questionable is to repeat what power, in this case the financial industry, spoon-feeds the media. Whoever rises socially under these conditions represents intellectual decline: among the airheads who accommodate to power, the well-regarded university professor has accommodated the most, and among the bought squadrons the tone-setting journalist is the cheapest. The common trait of the chosen ones: they have to continually praise the intellectual trash they produce. Doing publicity for indefensible conditions – that’s what political engagement looks like today.
In Austria, the central organ of the mainstream is the radio station Ö1, which correctly calls itself the culture channel, because Brecht defined culture as a palace built of dog shit, a definition that Adorno found genial. Ö1 is the successful public unity of that which the newspaper market separates into two milieus: the liberal and fascistic tendencies, a unity, whose cement is a garrulity that understands everything and grasps nothing. The obstreperous kowtowing to power is celebrated as courageous and open to the world. In order to have enough personnel to do this, Ö1 even raises its own authors and philosophers.
The conventional media, which people still do not mistake for culture, is whipping up a storm that is ripping through the world as a promise: The market, the bearer of salvation for humanity, must be freed from all fetters, so that it can unfold its beneficent force. To dupe the world like this there had to be world-political preconditions: the end of the Cold War, the capitulation of the Soviet Union.
At the end of the Second World War, after Hitler’s attempt to annihilate the Soviet Union, capitalism in the West, with its centuries-long experience, was pitted against a socialism, which, coming into the world through the Russian Revolution, never could have the feeling of actually existing – its right to exist was denied – for which reason it called itself actually-existing socialism.
It never knew anything but war and was fittingly termed war communism. As the West deceived it into thinking that it was possible to deal with each other peaceably, the East considered for a moment whether this could be so despite the antagonisms. While it was still considering – reasoning was punished by reality – it disappeared – preliminarily. It would also not have figured if socialism had won in the first attempt, as capitalism needed centuries even to come to political power.
Its victory over the socialist – European, not Asian – East unleashed the whole power of capitalism, and thus its power of self-destruction. The idea that once it no longer had a socialist adversary it could be tamed on its own territory by its local governments is a widespread and almost universally popular one, and it is utterly wrong. Capitalism is inherently self-destructive, through exploitation, colonialism, through war with other capitalist states; at the end, when it is on the verge of drowning in an excess of capital that can no longer be invested, it lashes about in mortal fear; it invokes the aid of the public entities it has just finished destroying.
To understand the current crisis, the financial world war, you must ignore the prayer-wheel-like background noise – it consists of two words: banks and economy and economy and banks and banks and economy. This is because the crisis goes way beyond the economic. There is no sphere of the economic any longer in which someone can earn their living in a couple of hours, in order to then dedicate oneself to one’s so-called life.
Capitalism is a system oriented to the whole, which valorises and controls everything, the most intimate desires and the remotest resources. This monster needs to be fought and overthrown. Marx showed capitalism to be a mode of production on which no one can rely on account of its contradictions and deficiencies. The alternative, which emerged over decades and centuries, through revolutions as well as in adventurous experiments, he called communism.
It is, at least in the original theory, no less universal. In addition, it is intolerant almost as no other political concept – though not out of fanaticism but for good reason. Capitalism is the ideal subject in which to read the tragedy of a development in which people continuously create better life conditions, but ones which don’t benefit from them because capitalism is like a robber-barony, a caste resting on force of arms, which has snapped up all the resources for itself.
That people crouch in the face of power, in order to survive, is one thing; it’s another thing to base a party programme on moral cowardice – even at a considerable fee. Social democracy and its green and civil-society offspring, whose ideology is moral cowardice, depoliticise society and look aghast, maybe even with schadenfreude, at the plundering of that majority which from one year to the next has access to an ever smaller part of the societal wealth they’ve built up.
Inwardly unendangered, outwardly not attacked, capitalism is losing its hold on reality and is careering out of control. In so doing, the terrible old – slave labour, exploitation and unemployment – is stirred together with the glistening new – the season’s chic innovations, wrongly called progress. And the ringmasters of the financial industry are cracking the whip over the scared who run for cover in the labour- and supermarkets in the vain hope that the next blow won’t hit them again.
Capitalism and socialism were conceived as universal in the 19th century, the first as world domination, the other as world revolution. Capitalism still clings to the delusion that it can achieve world dominance if it hasn’t already done so; it is a delusion in which the Almighty already appears on earth. After bitter experience, socialism is giving up the theory of world revolution.
For the international left the capitulation of the Soviet Union was a lesson. In a system in which the General Secretary of the Communist Party – no longer a student of Marx and Lenin, but a pupil of Thatcher and Reagan – lets himself be polished off by a politician striking for his gluttony and drunkenness, the revolution’s drive for survival has died. This is the worst thing that could befall it. If a revolution wins in one spot in the world, the rest of the world pounces on the flames to stamp it out. The victorious revolutionary, of whom the idealist expects great things, is completely taken up with the smallest thing: not going under.
The Soviet Union went under, and yet it did not become a part of the west. Capitalism’s attempts at destabilising the East ended with a success, which the West nevertheless saw as a failure. The hatred of the Soviet Union gave way to anger against Russia. The new object of hatred is China, which drew the practical conclusion from the Soviet Union’s demise that it would attempt a policy suiting its wish not to go under and undo the superhuman efforts of the revolutionaries to decide the struggle for themselves. The salon left, on the other hand, pursues its mission undeterred: proving to any kind of actually-existing socialism ever since the October Revolution that it has not attained the ideals of socialism.
Whatever capitalism or socialism are doing today there is no way back to the years before 1945. What developed at that time surprised even the protagonists. After the war it wasn’t one victor who vanquished the defeated; two victors irreconcilably confronted one another – two social formations, not as ideological spectres but as real powers.
The East’s confrontation with the West has a new quality today; it is occurring at a higher level of civilisation – the next level beneath this was the French Revolution. Social modernity lives from this conflict, for worse than for better – because the new confrontation, however removed it is from the former butchery, remains tied for the foreseeable future to nation-states, the embodiment of modern barbarism. Socialism, the impudent dwarf, that defied the capitalist giant, was, when not throttled by the giant, then locked up in a cage, so that, even though it understood itself as internationalist, it had to carry out nationalist-egotist policies, and in so doing inevitably mutilated itself.
Dying capitalism invests enormous sums in self-propaganda. With the propaganda itself it aims at profit – although this is not the main business that guarantees its further existence. Every product of the old and new media industry blubbers out into the world that everything is good as it is and that there is no alternative to what exists.
Anticommunism is capitalism’s only ideology even if there is no communism far and wide. Just as anti-Semitism does not need Jews, anticommunism gets by without communists. It was no accident that the Nazis spoke of the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy in order to express their hatred of the fighters for a new society.
The carnival barkers who today propagate the free market, which never existed, the intercessors of Western democracy, which, intended as the sovereignty of the people, was always, with private property, something less than this – the carnival barkers and intercessors, continuously more poorly paid, are crying increasingly louder that the whole world must be exactly like the first world, and this exactly at a time in which the latter is bursting asunder.
A distinctive sign of the decline of an epoch is the opinion terrorism that operates under the name of freedom of opinion and whose goal is the opinion mush that is daily cooked up anew, becoming thinner and more tasteless until public and published opinion become the intellectual monastic soup for poor and rich – the ideal of a “Volksgemeinschaft”. Nothing may be thought, said, or written, which, instead of criticising the dominant system with hypocritical sanctimony, questions it.
The last radical criticism was from the ’68 movement, of which it is snidely said that it couldn’t have been farther from proposing another system in the place of capitalism – as if the 68ers did not themselves know that they, completely powerless as they were, could not abolish the powers that be. They are not excused for having effected little even though they said the most important thing that could be said: that the system is a swinish system, that its representatives are character masks, and the Social Democrats traitors.
For post-war society, the greatest shock was that in 1968, out of nothing, people rose up, who understood the social relations and used terms appropriate to them. After 1968 there has been only one dictate in the western world: this scandal must not be allowed to recur. The media, the universities and artists were newly trimmed ideologically; criticism was ordered back into the barracks of tranquillity. Literature closed ranks in deploying itself, goose-stepping where it had to practice new interiority and where literature lieutenants demonstrate that their love for the market is as great as their hatred of art.
The restoration proceeded in each country with different methods. In Austria the old Nazis reported for duty – clerical fascists and social democrats, who had been mobilised after ‘45 to paralyse intellectual life, had proven too lackadaisical. The appointment as head of the television’s news department of a man who was being sought in Yugoslavia as a war criminal, was a clear example of the dark times that were dawning. Kreisky’s intricate ironic melody was contrasted by the new ORF director’s, Bacher’s, harsh barking, with which the intellectual province has ever since intimidated any intellectual impulse, a barking that became the model for the brutal staccato speech with which right-wing leaders henceforth badger people until the lumpenproletariat and the lumpen-bourgeoisie set the tone.
The authoritarian tattle still doesn’t forcefully bring about fascist conditions, but only the idyll of a democratic fascism, in which the word becomes a phrase and thought a lie, until the material core of society is covered by a dense demagogic veil, behind which capitalism, like an inscrutable God, mysteriously rumbles.
He is waited on by devoted gnomes, so-called economic researchers who fawn on him and measure his body temperature, blood pressure and weight. Like God, the economy also lives spartanly, in this case in a chamber, the Chamber of Commerce, taking up residence in a business location that is transfigured into a place of pilgrimage. The population is compelled to serve in the economic army, in which they cannot choose how best to serve the economy, as an active employed combatant, or passively, as the unemployed; or as someone in part-time work, short-time work or temporary work, the most abject form of wage slavery.
There is no more stupid form of economic activity than capitalism. It is a war of all against all. Capital declares war on labour, wages drop, profits go up, and in the end it doesn’t know where to go with its earnings; it blows them and rescues itself through a crisis. This economy knows only one principle – competition – and one goal – profit – a senseless circuit. The drive to competition consists in shutting out competition; the profit compulsion leads to investing profit in the competitive battle. The role of people in this economic fascism is limited to sacrificing themselves.
The prototype of fascism is theology. If it succeeds in establishing as a life-sense the nonsense that there is a god, an infinitude of rational steps can rest on this foundation. One only has to have access to power to impose a belief, whether it is in God, the leader or in capitalism. If belief wavers, the cry of crisis begins.
A crisis is the best means for establishing dominion. To distract people from seeing it as the greatest evil, the establishment looks in the earth’s most distant valleys for culprits whom they call terrorists and whom people are supposed to fear. But the terrorist, even if he is caught, remains an unknown entity. For this reason fascists rely on fear of the foreign rather than fear of terrorists. The foreign, the alien, are knowable; they are everyone who is designated as alien.
Economic tyranny destroys the basis of existence of human beings, and from the resulting powerlessness political tyranny grows. Austria too is now following this path with great success.