Sustainability for All

Robert Kurz

The peace movement ended when Nicole sang ‘a little peace’ and Ronald Reagan and his family joined the human chain. Today, every arms industrialist and torturer is for ‘a little peace’ and democracy. The same goes for the socio-ecological movement and its arbitrary concept of ‘sustainability,’ which misses a fundamental critique of economic calculation by a hair’s breadth.

Since modernity has been given a postmodern facelift, anything goes because nothing means anything anymore. Against the background noise of the global market machine, nothing matters: expressed in monetary terms, all things and living beings in this world seem to be of the same interchangeable quality. And freedom is insight into the necessity of market conformity; Orwell didn’t even need to invent ‘new-speak.’ A voracious plastic discourse is taking hold, appropriating all terms and levelling all differences, the more it talks about ‘individuality’ and ‘diversity.’ Any social critique is swallowed up to become a market commodity alongside credit cards, panty liners and cell phones. Politics and the media stir up the ready-made soup of the zeitgeist, in which the latest buzzwords have to swim for the sake of saleability; even if they have no more substance than a Knorr or Maggi ‘chicken soup’ contains real chicken. It seems that the plastic term ‘sustainability’ has been invented for this fast food ‘discourse.’ This new word is ideally suited to merge hard-headed market interests with whispers of ecological responsibility, in order to feed the product, which is edible for everyone, into the endless operation of morsel journalism.

With the help of ‘sustainability,’ one can effortlessly act as an eco-social beacon without questioning the prevailing social order and its economic rationalization of the world. Every child knows by now that economic rationality permanently externalizes costs: to society as a whole, to the future, and also to nature. It has proved virtually impossible to internalize these externalized social and environmental costs back into the economic balance sheet through political regulation.

But this could have been foreseen, because the essence of business management is that particular calculation which, in the interest of economic self-preservation, literally doesn’t give a damn about the whole. If you don’t screw up the world, the markets will punish you. In any case, it would be an absurd procedure to continue to organize society according to a principle that systematically calculates out the social and ecological consequential costs, only to want to add them back in later. Why not simply use society’s resources wisely?

Unfortunately, this common sense can only be mobilized if society puts an end to the blind business calculation robot. But let us not get carried away. The socio-ecological debate of the 1970s and 1980s was obviously a luxury product of the world market winners. Now the fun is over. And precisely at a time when eco-dumping and social deregulation are accelerating the crisis, ‘sustainability’ is making a career for itself. It is the title for the certificate of surrender of socio-ecological social criticism.

The faster tropical forests disappear and drinking water is contaminated, the more dramatically global mass unemployment and mass poverty increase, the more general the commitment to ‘sustainability’ becomes. This is why even a free-market radical like BDI boss Olaf Henkel can appear as an authority in the sustainability debate. All the goats will become gardeners, and the victorious microeconomy will sustainably destroy the world.

Editor’s note: This text was first published in: Political Ecology January/2000, p. 10. The text could have been written today. Some names would have been different and the word climate catastrophe would have been added.

Time is Murder

Robert Kurz

That time is money and nothing else, capitalism knew long before Karl Marx. The abstract fluid time of business management corresponds to “abstract labor,” the expenditure of “brain, nerves, and muscles” optimized for the end in itself of the valorization of money capital – all the while remaining indifferent to the content of this expenditure and to the health of the working people. The capitalist social machine also turns man into a machine. Already in the times of the economic miracle people noticed that the rhythm of working time spills over into “leisure time.” The general obsession with time has become the hallmark of a postmodern acceleration society. The philosopher Paul Virilio spoke of a “frantic standstill.” In Japan, “Karoshi,” which is sudden death due to overexertion at the sacred workplace, became the talk of the town.

The world crisis of the 3rd industrial revolution is taking performance mania to the extreme. The more mass unemployment and underemployment spread, the more unrestrained the extraction of energy from the proud occupants of the workplace became. Whether in the factories of the corporations or in the cleaning crews of the service companies, whether in the privatized postal service and railroads or even in the temples of finance capital: everywhere, one person is supposed to do what three or four did before. In the U.S. and Argentina, it was revealed that retail groups have diapers distributed to cashiers so that they don’t “steal time” from management by attempting to satisfy their elementary physical needs. A heavy workload goes hand in hand with humiliation, all in the name of the need for profit.

But the obsession with performance by no means affects only the lower ranks of the global value chains. Since it is not only about the “muscles” but also the “nerves and brains” of the human combustion engines, the “officers and NCOs” of the much-invoked society of knowledge are not exempt. When a young finance lawyer from the renowned law firm “Freshfields Bruckhaus” threw himself from the seventh floor of London’s Tate Modern museum at the beginning of 2007, it was lamented that: “The city feeds on its children.” Working 7 days of 16 hours each, the aspiring elitist had been unable to endure the “up or out” imperative, despite the prospect of a soon-to-be £1 million annual salary. At the same time, a series of suicides at Renault’s technology center became public. A leading computer scientist threw himself to his death, a highly qualified engineer drowned himself in a nearby pond, and another hanged himself in his apartment. The background is believed to be the “Renault Contrat 2009” restructuring program, which amounted to psychologically terrorizing top executives with negative evaluations in the presence of their colleagues.

Such incidents, discussed in the media in all their helplessness, are only the tip of the iceberg. Time is money, and therefore murder. We may soon see exemplary managers putting on their diapers early in the morning so that they don’t waste their valuable brain time with a superfluous trip to the toilet. Pampers and “Karoshi” for everyone, then perhaps the extreme income inequality will be easier to bear and the “upswing” can continue. The fact that mishaps and catastrophes will accumulate in the process is to be accepted, because concrete realities are no longer important in virtual capitalism anyway. For a universal culture of incineration, the duty to bravely self-immolate also applies.

 Originally published in Neues Deutschland on 04/05/2007

The Inflationary Bomb

Robert Kurz

The crisis is still considered to be over, and the global economy is said to be growing at a healthy rate that is expected to exceed pre-crisis levels in the near future. However, an advance of inflation is making itself felt on not so quiet legs, which seems to be replacing the deflationary spurts of the great slump. In recent months, the inflation rate in India and China, the world’s great economic hopefuls, has exceeded the 5 percent mark, and food prices have risen by as much as 15 percent (India) and 12 percent (China). The increase in key interest rates, which are now 5 percent or more above the European and U.S. rates in each case, has had little effect so far. A similar pick-up in inflation can be observed in many peripheral regions of the world. In the euro zone, too, inflation reached 2.4 percent in January, breaking out of the official target range. The same development in the USA, of course, only elicits a shrug of the shoulders there.

What would have been considered alarming not so long ago, at least in the EU, is now being talked down here as well. Both ECB President Trichet and Deutsche Bank CEO Ackermann have declared the global price increases to be a “normal” phenomenon in the economic boom, which will recede by itself with the cycle. In doing so, they succumb to an elementary confusion. A mere cyclical general price increase, which arises from a surge in regular demand due to increased profits and wages from real capital valorization, is a pure market phenomenon and has nothing to do with the value of money. It is quite different when government consumption and central bank money artificially fuel the economy. There is a huge difference between whether demand increases because the economy picks up on its own, and whether the economy picks up because capitalist irregular demand is created by government decree. In the latter case, the general price increase is based on a devaluation of money itself. This is the real inflation, and this is what we are dealing with now.

In fact, the states and their central banks have created credit money on a historically unprecedented scale to absorb the world economic crisis. In the U.S. alone, more than four trillion dollars were injected into the economy through various channels within two years. Everywhere, low or zero interest rate policies are spewing money like a fountain into the commercial banking system, which is allowed to deposit bad debt as “collateral.” Moreover, the U.S. Federal Reserve has been buying its own government bonds en masse for some time, because the Asians are increasingly spurning these bonds, which have become dubious. The ECB is playing the same game with the government bonds of deficit countries in the euro zone in order to save the common currency. Contrary to its announcements, it has not succeeded in siphoning off this liquidity through refinancing operations. As long as the flood of money is merely used to reschedule debts or drive up stock market prices, inflation will be kept in check. But to the extent that the purpose of the exercise is achieved, namely to create demand out of nothing, accelerated demonetization inevitably follows. It shows ignorance to deny this connection and to fantasize about a self-sustaining boom. The inflationary bomb will dissolve the illusory growth into thin air just as the deflationary one did before.

Originally published in Neues Deutschland on 02/07/2011

The Monetary Sin

Robert Kurz

Just as every doctrine of salvation produces its orthodox dogmatists, neoliberal economic theology does not lack this type. Principles over facts is the motto. With Bundesbank President Weber, yet another conservative apostle of respectability has thrown in the towel. Weber, recently considered Chancellor Merkel’s preferred candidate for the post of outgoing ECB chief Trichet, left his patroness in the monetary policy dispute. As a member of the same economic church, Merkel is more inclined to pragmatic muddling through. Weber presents himself as a strict guardian of money against the ECB’s easing policy and a “transfer union” that is to be used to plug the rampant debt. His steadfastness has only the flaw that he confuses cause and effect. It was not a lax monetary policy that brought about the crisis but, conversely, the crisis forced a lax monetary policy. The fall from grace of neoliberalism already took place under former Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan in response to the dotcom crisis in 2001. Since 2008, the ECB, too, has gone against the wisdom of its own bible and turned to money glutting. The crisis respite bought with it threatens to turn into uncontrollable inflation in textbook fashion. If Weber, who is faithful to the Bible, had prevailed, however, the euro would have blown up long ago. Merkel wants to sit out the debt crisis through political horse-trading. The euro bailout fund is to be drastically expanded, contrary to earlier declarations of intent. In return, a vaguely conceived “competitiveness pact” is planned. The problem behind this is that the deficits, which have reached their limits, are nothing more than the flip side of Germany’s export surpluses. Regular debt relief would cause these one-sided exports to collapse and, at the same time, put the major German and French banks in trouble, which are sitting on mountains of junk bonds issued by the deficit countries. Thus, inflationary policy appears to be the lesser evil. The dogmatists of economic theology are right against the pragmatists and vice versa. That is why they must fail together.

Originally published in Freitag on 02/17/2011

The Political Economy of Education

Robert Kurz

The capitalist mode of production is rich in internal self-contradictions. The field of education and training is no exception. Knowledge in itself does not produce surplus value, but it is a factual necessity for capital under the dictates of productive force development. Since in this society every expense must appear in the form of money, the education system is a “dead cost” in the capitalist sense, i.e., a deduction from social surplus value. Therefore, the need for educational investment is invoked everywhere in the name of location competition, but at the same time the production and distribution of knowledge is put under enormous cost pressure.

This contradiction has intensified historically. The same development of productive power that forces that expansion of knowledge and education has, on the other hand, thinned out the real value-added producing sector (especially the industrial base) by making labor superfluous there to an increasing extent. While the famous “productive” working class relatively declined and today forms a social minority, the largely “unproductive” new middle classes of the education and knowledge sector grew in mirror image. In capitalist terms, this development could only be represented as increasing credit financing of the corresponding “dead costs,” an aspect of the general financing crisis that has hardly been addressed.

According to the laws of the labor market, the massification of higher education (in the FRG today, about half of a cohort graduates from high school) and thus of the supply leads to a devaluation of the qualified labor force. In conjunction with the cost pressure on the entire capitalistically “unproductive” education system, this has led to even the academically educated strata progressively being made to live in precariousness. The old educated middle class is doomed. Added to this is the discrepancy between qualification and cyclical requirements. Since the social context is not subject to joint planning but to blind dynamics, some qualifications suddenly become superfluous or oversupplied, while others are lacking. Training, however, is only possible in the long term, while the requirement profiles in global competition change by leaps and bounds.

In the meantime, we are dealing with the same problem worldwide. There are similar names in all countries for the condition that is called “Generation Internship” in this country and illustrates the true social imbalance of “Generation Facebook.” Precisely because the educational gap between the capitalist centers and the periphery has been partially leveled, the lack of prospects for the educated young generation in the poorer countries is particularly drastic. This (along with the explosion of food prices) is one of the backgrounds for the current revolts in the Arab world. But also in China or India, mass qualification and employment are diverging. It is not a matter of so-called democratic deficits, but of a capitalistically insoluble structural contradiction in the relationship between education and economy.  The question is whether the globally masculinized “academic proletariat” translates its precariousness into the idea of a new social emancipation for all, or whether it merely wants to assert itself in capitalism and ideologically processes the necessary disenchantment. In the second case, the worst is to be expected.

Originally published in Neuen Deutschland on 03/07/2011

A Hero of The Postmodern World

A Small Follow-Up to an Exemplary Affair

Robert Kurz

Baron Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg has attracted attention by his contemporary behavior. The surprise may be called all the more a pleasant one, as it had been said of him from ill-wishing sides that he suffers from anachronistic and pathological mental states such as intellectual honesty, independent thinking or reliable diligence. Some cultural conservatives are even said to have imputed originality to him. All of these slanders have proven to be groundless. As a jogging and surfing media literate under forty, the noble scion is flesh from the flesh of the Facebook generation. Copy and paste is not considered shamelessness to him (what is that?), but cleverness; nothing postmodern is alien to him. Why should one still think anything oneself, when one has always been a patented queer and self-thinker anyway? So this sympathetic bearer of the zeitgeist succeeded in an exemplary way in expressing the ideas he didn’t have, not even in his own words. No one can take that away from him.

All those who copied the postmodern theorem of the “death of the author” from whomever knew how to put their name over it with grandeur. This subtle irony was also immediately understood by the Baron. In times of individualization, the author and the authoress do not disappear to make way for an anonymous collective of intellectual factory production. Only the names change like the doorplates in a prefabricated building. What dies is the myth of origin, that someone once actually thought and invented, researched, developed and formulated something that had to be quoted. Texts are simply there like the universe. Or like the apples on the tree that you only have to pick. To put it better and less naturalistically: The world is in any case one big text in the form of a virtual self-service supermarket, into which one may log in if one happens to be in the mood for reputation.

Every thought has already been there and stored in postmodern nirvana. All you have to do is gain technical access. That is why the habitual reduplication will not stop in the remote text regions of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, but will hack into the central treasure troves of the West, the East, and all intelligent worlds in general. The Baron belongs to the forerunners of a far higher second-hand thinking than he himself could display. Let’s take as a simple example the theorem of the so-called Pythagoras. This origin myth is cracked, when the so far still unrecognized 23-year-old Emil Backe states the theorem in a term paper for the University of Cologne and puts his name above it. Of course, Backe’s theorem cannot have a long stock of originality either, but that is not the point. The postmodern time horizon is getting shorter and shorter anyway. This is also true when Backe, who is now already 25 years old, presents the “Faust” that he has painstakingly downloaded. For a quarter of an hour, it is discussed in the community as his most mature work to date, and you really can’t ask for more than that.

Perhaps some eternalist now claims that in this way nothing new would come about and at some point the human copy machines would have to run out of material. Anyone who thinks this way doesn’t know the remix process. It is by no means just about the repetitive and serial appropriation of individual works, but even more about the combination of as many different text modules as possible. Therein lies the actual creativity of the original forgery. And the Baron’s dissertation also provides an example of this, although it cannot yet be called quite classical in this sense. Conceivable, for example, would be a remix of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” essays by Kurt Gödel, and the autobiography of Oliver Kahn; reconfigured as a retirement work by Emil Backe, which he blogs at the age of 29. The variety of remix possibilities is almost unlimited. Thus, at last, everyone becomes a celebrity and, beyond the copy work, the subject of his own electronic Yellow Press, tweeting every day with patience interesting messages about the composition of his dinner.

Basically, the copied state of mind could be completely automated. Why should one still download and remix oneself when the computer can do it much better on demand? The difference is a quantitative one, not a qualitative one. It is only about the speed with which the ars combinatoria is to be accomplished. Nowhere is anyone at home in the thinking room, neither with the intelligent robots nor with their masters. Who still needs an ego today, when everyone has long since been individualized? Admittedly, one single basic qualification remains indispensable: the subject being copied should still be able to write his or her name. Entering three crosses would not be individual enough. So much literacy is necessary, even in the postmodern copy store. The Baron, for example, could clearly spell his name, otherwise it would not be on the title page of the dissertation. He could have gone into business with it. Or into nuclear physics. The fact that he preferred jurisprudence, however, indicates a certain narrow-mindedness. The future will bring the individual universal copier, before which the universal geniuses of the Renaissance would have to pale.

So the artificial excitement of worn-out cultural seniors, who want to recognize in all this a decadence of the de-skilled intellectual business, is quite superfluous. The dynamic avant-gardists at the base are of a different opinion: “We should be careful with such judgments and deep indignation…because copying, copying, decorating with false feathers on a small scale is our daily business.” Who copied this down from the universe of texts? No one other than the head of the “Names & Careers” department in the “Handelsblatt” newspaper, who can also write her name for professional reasons. She knows where the bartel gets the cider; and that’s why she adorns herself not with other people’s feathers, but with false ones. There are no real ones left. This is the way it is with the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproducibility, as Emil Backe once expressed it in his imitative way, when he had just had a particularly good copying day on a somewhat larger scale.

The fact that the Baron, despite his enormous and sacrificially cultivated copying skills, can no longer perform the job of defense minister, which was tailored to his body like any other scientifically demanding job, makes him a hero and a martyr of the postmodern idealistic overall state of mind. As the deconstructivist left marches at the forefront of digital progress, it should recognize the kindred copy-soul in the Upper Franconian minor nobility. It seems all the more strange when some representatives of the free software and free culture movement try to distance themselves. They would not have meant it that way. It is only surprising that there was never such an objection, when in the alternative leaf forest of their own milieu the “lustful copying” was declared to be an emancipatory act. At least the “Gegenstandpunkt” appreciates that the Baron has behaved in a pleasingly non-proprietary manner. This statement cannot have been copied from a Marxian text. But perhaps diversity has finally arrived even among the oldest new leftists.

In general, the left-wing postmodern scene can study the secret of the state it has always longed for but never achieved: namely, to be popular and to be loved by the people. The Baron was considered by the people of the country to be swell; not because, but in spite of the fact that he presented himself as a conceptual thinking being. The heroes of the everyday mind, however, have a keen sense of when there is a good core hidden behind a deviant shell. Thus, the supposed unmasking only washed away one last blemish by proving what was always to be suspected: He is not an intellectual at all! He has merely copied all the outlandish stuff without thinking much about it. Since then, he has been doubly and triply loved for this very reason, no matter what else he may publish, be it the “Grundrisse” or “Finnegans Wake.” The postmodern regulars may say to themselves: nevertheless, he is one of us. The fact that he can write his name is not in itself a matter of honor. After all, we as normal people can do that, too, if we make a little effort. The Post-Left should appoint the Baron as its honorary member not only for factual reasons, but also for propaganda reasons; perhaps then a little of his charisma will fall on them.

Originally published on the exit! website in 2011.

Business Management as a Gamble

Robert Kurz

For the common man, the most evil villain in the country is not the slanderer, but the speculator. The “gambling casino” of financial capitalism has long been held responsible for all economic and social crisis phenomena. Thus, the banker has become the prototype of the irresponsible gambler and is considered the number one enemy of all well-behaved philistines. The same consciousness, however, can find a lot of good in the industrial capitalist, who does not hang around in the airy financial superstructure but has material things produced and needs jobs in the process. One does not criticize capitalism at all, but would like to distinguish between dubious financial gambling and down-to-earth real economy.

But is real economic capital with its material basis really so far removed from speculative thinking? Even industrial profit is not fixed from the outset, but must first be won in competition. Because there is no collective planning of social production, no enterprise knows whether it can sell its goods at all. Therefore, material production is also a gamble on the field of universal competition and the real business manager is just as much a gambler as the investment banker. Only the stakes are different: not paper financial securities, but machines, raw materials and people.

For a long time, economic science did not want to associate risk competition with the concept of gambling. Corresponding attempts to apply mathematical game theory to economic behavior came only from outsiders. It was not until 1994 that John F. Nash (Princeton), John C. Harsanyi (Berkeley) and Reinhard Selten (Bonn) received the Nobel Prize as representatives of economic game theory. This change in perception has not only something to do with the postmodern mentality that wants to turn everything and anything into a “game.” Nor is it merely an ideological reflex of the financial bubble economics since the 1980s. Rather, the use of risk in the real industrial economy has also changed dramatically.

As is well known, the trump card in the competitive game is business cost reduction. In the real economy, this also involves risk-taking in a highly material sense. This applies not least to safety standards in the handling of hazardous natural substances and processes. The competitive pressure that has intensified in crisis capitalism has long since taken hold of this sensitive area. The flip side of the same development is the use of ever larger aggregates of production and ever less mature and controlled techniques. For example, according to the official investigation report, the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was due to a rigid business strategy of saving time and money at the corporate conglomerate involved. The same policy has come to light in the Japanese nuclear disaster; not to mention that nuclear energy in itself carries unmanageable risk burdens.

The financial speculators at least play with paper, the big industrial gamblers with nature, with the life and health of people. Who is more irresponsible? The chain of industrial catastrophes caused by business management has become just as dense as the chain of financial catastrophes in the last 30 years. And the next one is sure to come. The game must go on.

Originally published in Neuen Deutschland on 04/04/2011

Starvation Inflation

Robert Kurz

It was common knowledge that the huge government rescue packages and economic stimulus programs since the crisis collapse in 2009 contain inflationary potential that must be unloaded after a transition period. In fact, inflation is on the rise worldwide – especially in the global growth drivers China, India and Brazil, but to some extent already in the euro zone.

However, there are differences between the production sectors. Everywhere, food prices are outstripping all others. The official inflation rate in China is currently 5 percent; in the food sector it is 10 percent, and in real terms it is estimated at 19 percent. The price explosion for basic foodstuffs is even worse in India and other parts of Asia, in Africa and Latin America. Food price increases in the U.S. and the EU have also far exceeded the general inflation rate in recent months. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), rice, corn, wheat, meat, vegetables and luxury foods have become more than 30 percent more expensive on average globally since the beginning of the year.

Why are food prices in particular exploding? Obviously, several causes of capitalist economic logic are intertwined here. Government programs and a flood of money from central banks lead to the actual devaluation of money, which affects all sectors. In the case of food, however, special factors are added. The increasing production of biofuel has a particularly serious effect: Oilseeds are being burned for fuel and acreage is being lost for this purpose. At the same time, however, the price of fossil energy has risen and with it the cost of diesel and fertilizer in agricultural production. This development is escalating because high oil prices make the conversion of agricultural products into fuel all the more attractive. Finally, such a situation in agricultural commodities attracts speculative mobile money capital, which bets on further rising prices and makes this process a self-reinforcing one.

The social impact of record food prices depends entirely on the proportion of income that has to be spent on food and drink. The majority of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America spend between 60 and 90 percent of their income on food. In China, the figure is still 30 to 40 percent, despite growth successes. In Europe, the figure is 5 to 10 percent. But these figures are deteriorating dramatically in all parts of the world. In the wake of the global economic crisis, which has by no means been overcome, global poverty has spread like wildfire, albeit unevenly. In many regions of the world, the incomes of large masses of the population have fallen to rock bottom. Now the price of, of all things, basic foodstuffs is surging. As early as 2010, the World Bank warned of new hunger revolts. The unbearable rise in food costs is playing a major role in the uprisings in the Arab region. And Spain shows that something similar is brewing in the crisis countries of the euro zone. Although no one here has to starve yet, in view of the rampant youth unemployment, the patience of the generations that are able to fight may be wearing thin if many can no longer afford even the cultural goods and technologies that have become a matter of course because food alone is becoming more and more expensive as budgets shrink.

Originally published in Neuen Deutschland on 05/30/2011

Postnational Chain Reaction

Robert Kurz

In capitalism, it is not people who are socialized, but dead things: money and commodities. Therefore, the perception of the world is reduced to a point; to the single individual, the single company, the single state. The consciousness of time is just as atomized. What counts is always only topicality. Everything else is yesterday’s snow or the Flood that follows. We don’t think in terms of epochs, but in terms of the time horizon of the “daily news.” It is true that we somehow know that there are complex global connections, especially economic ones. But the more there is talk of “networking,” the more isolated the facts appear. Globalization is all well and good, but isn’t it a topic of the day before yesterday?

Ever since the states put together their rescue packages, people everywhere want to put on their national glasses again. The fact that the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers (was there something?) triggered a chain reaction that for a moment revealed the worldwide network of bad loans is seen as an excess of some paternalistic financial markets. Under the protective umbrella of the government and within the four walls at home, people like to believe that they are in a world of loud patriotic economies. In reality, the same transnational flows of goods and money, the same global imbalances and deficit cycles as before are now subsidized by government loans instead of commercial financial bubbles. And the state money itself is anything but national.

Because capitalism is considered indestructible anyway, and the new quality of globalization tends to be suppressed, the only question that seems to arise is that of up-and-comers among corporations and national winners and losers. Will China replace the U.S. as the economic and political world power? This “grand narrative” of the media is completely blind to reality, because we no longer live in a century of independent national empires. The Chinese export surpluses vis-à-vis the U.S., which are increasing again from month to month, are financed by the money glut of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Conversely, the Chinese feed their state-enforced domestic growth from astronomical foreign exchange reserves, primarily in dollars. The interdependence is so great that any stumble by one brings down the other. Neither individually nor jointly do they control their contradictory interdependence.

In Europe, people pretend that the debt crises of Greece and the other wobblers are homegrown problems that can be dealt with by national austerity efforts. In fact, the deficits in the EU are the flip side of Germany’s export surpluses. If the German economy had to focus on the national domestic market, it would collapse immediately. So far, the draconian austerity measures in Southern and Eastern Europe, and for that matter in Great Britain, have largely only been proclaimed. If they are fully realized, we can expect a European recession with global repercussions. And if Greece goes bankrupt, just when it is saving itself to death, people will wonder where Greek government securities are stashed everywhere. It’s not much different than the Lehman certificates, and it applies to bad government debt everywhere. Capital in all its forms is international.

Originally published in Neuen Deutschland on 06/27/2011

Savings Terror and Revolt

Robert Kurz

German export chauvinism believes itself to be on the island of the blessed, where no crisis exists anymore. It is true that mass poverty and slum conditions have continued to rise in this country as well. But that is not an issue when the economy is booming all the same. China and the USA are not the only ones buying big in Germany thanks to government aid. Together with cars and machine tools, the crisis was mainly exported to the less blessed parts of the EU for the time being. The euro makes it possible because it favors the high-tech export roller. And that’s why it has to be saved. The regulars get artificially excited about alleged gifts of billions for the “lazy Greeks.” But the gifts are not gifts at all, but additional loans that are to be serviced by hook or by crook. This is only possible if Greece saves itself to death and literally cuts the costs of the euro bailout out of its citizens, including the middle class. It is no longer just militant young people who are taking to the streets against this, but also conservative housewives, doctors and teachers, grandpas and grannies.

As is well known, the social pain threshold is not only being exceeded in Greece. For similar reasons, the austerity terror is also raging in Spain, Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere; even in Great Britain, which, although not part of the euro zone, had to save its own banks and is now making its own population pay for it. Everywhere, a revolt is brewing against the selling off of the last public resources, which, although so far aimless in sociopolitical terms, will soon be containable only by force. Suddenly, “Arab conditions” are looming in the middle of the EU. Whereas the uprisings there have so far been perceived by the media as crucifixive “democratization movements,” the social misery is now emerging as the true motivation on the ground of the European democracies themselves. At the center, here as well as there, is the dramatic mass unemployment of the academic youth, which, by the way, has long been noticeable in China and the other Asian boom countries.

It was the central banks’ flood of money and the global government bailout programs that led to new financial bubbles, rampant inflation or, as in the euro zone, to the brink of currency collapse. The extremist austerity policy is the about-face to escape these consequences. However, this is the only way to manifest the crisis in its full extent. Greece, currently the weakest link in the chain, shows after Arabia the future of the capitalist economy and its world of states. If, after the young, the older generation also suffers the consequences of the crisis as a result of state intervention, the legitimacy of the political system will collapse. This is not only a social and political problem, but also affects capital itself. After all, the mania for austerity against the consequences of the bailout mania is also stifling the global economy again in the end. It is absurd to imagine that the FRG can bask in the glow of its successful crisis exports while the world around it is on fire. It will be interesting to see how the supposed winners of the crisis react socially and politically when the misery finally reaches them.

Originally published in Freitag on 07/07/2011