May-Day

or: learning and living and teaching Europe …

To be more precise: it is not May-Day but the evening before the 1st of May – Uli said the other day: it is in Vienna a special cultural event and if you are around you have to go to the town hall … – surely not the same as one year ago when I gathered on the Plaza de la Revolución in La Havana.

Indeed, I am around, teaching European Integration – latest on the 9th the recordings should be here.

So, may-evening then – I am sitting in a tiny park, munching my Simit while I am waiting for the volksoper – the people’s opera – to open its door.

Thoroughly enjoying the moment – anticipating the tale of the

Man from La Mancha

Sitting there, I am also thinking about the programme of the next days – teaching, writing, rushed trip to Bremen for a presentation and  … Vienna again …

Le nozze di Figaro

…. the upcoming performance …. – while waiting that day for the doors to open, I will most likely sit in the small resto-bar opposite of the venue, sipping some wine, tasting a canapé …

… May-Evening …. And I am asking myself if I am wondering or not: why is the one place named people’s opera, the other – the one for the higher echelons of society, the bourgeois – is called state-opera.

Les Distinctions

as Pierre Bourdieu called them – hadn’t been small at the end (as the German translation suggests) …, they had been about the nearness, even the identification with the centres of power.

L’état c’est moi

Not yet …. The evening of the first of May ….
…. And I am teaching about European Integration …. Indeed

Commodification of labour power and appropriation of surplus value cannot be thought of without an outside, by which they profit in social, economic and  ecological terms
(Brand, Ulrich/Wissen, Markus: imperiale lebensweise; Muenchen: oekom: 63)

Which is another formulation of what Dulcinea probably meant:

The world is a dung heap and we are grubs walking through …

So it is a long way until we will say

Je suis e aussi moi es nous sommes le peuples

 

Annunci

KCK – klatsch, cliché, kitsch

KLATSCH

Klatsch is a German term, though occasionally used in English. And when I first saw the headline
I admittedly clicked on it in a longing for some klatsch, gossip — distraction from the expected, though still worrying news, presenting Trump’s shocking speech of acceptance. Looking at all this development, there are three things that are specially worrying. Two are pointed out in an article in The Financial Times (17/7/2016):
This week, Republicans will endorse the first US presidential nominee since the second world war to reject America’s globalist consensus. It is hard to see beyond that stark fact. Yet it is only the second most troubling feature of Donald Trump’s rise. The bigger one is his impact on the health of American democracy. Even if Mr Trump is defeated in November, it will be hard to put the genie back into the bottle. Budding demagogues will have taken note. You can denigrate most of the people most of the time and still have a shot at the main prize.
The third point, of course not to be found even in the intelligent journals of the bourgeoisie, is that such extremes as Mr Trump make us easily forget the sound criticism of the past  the “health of American democracy”? — Sure, a very sick person appears to be nearly health, of we think about the decaying corpse. But …  I am not really in the American-style Moore films. Still, having recently watched the film
Capitalism, A Love Story
I really liked the beginning, forcing us to ask the question how people in 100, 1000 or more years will think about “our times”. The Trumps, Orbans and Erdogans being comparable with Nero, Cesar and hardly allowing to see the Cicero?

CLICHÉS

Glancing over the article

it showed the perfect match between reality and cliché – even in details:

While Trump family values may not be particularly honorable, they are perversely traditional. Melania Trump told the R.N.C. audience that “Donald is intensely loyal to family,” a claim belied by his own marital history — she is wife No. 3, and No. 2 was the woman with whom he cheated on No 1. Mr. Trump has children with three different women; he blames giving his wife too much responsibility in his business for his first divorce, and his wife’s wanting him to spend too much time at home with her and their daughter for his second.
Yes, hypocrites are not shrinking from slapping into their own face. I remember Milan Kundera about whom I chatted the other day with a friend:

Do you realize that people don’t know how to read Kafka simply because they want to decipher him? Instead of letting themselves be carried away by his unequaled imagination, they look for allegories — and come up with nothing but clichés: life is absurd (or it is not absurd), God is beyond reach (or within reach), etc. You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.

KITSCH

If there would not be so much bitterness coming up when thinking about recent events …, recent? Perhaps beginning in some strange way with the day when I left the French embassy in Rome: Charlie Hebdo …, a pilot crashing an aircraft with all passengers into a mountain, not being able to cope with his desperation, a “mysterious coup” in Ankara … – a friend wrote the other day that it is
not something a decent European academic can easily understand and digest
all this easily appears as kitsch – because
[i]n the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then, that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions. A question is like a knife that slices through the stage backdrop and gives us a look at what lies hidden behind it.
It is
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
that comes to mind – in global politics of “the making history”, and also in the daily work of teaching, something I frequently mentioned on these pages.
And when speaking of bitterness it is also the inability of asking questions … – VERBOTEN, as a french friend would say.

REALITIES – THEATRALITIES

There seems to be a paradox when we are looking for answers – we can only find them with others, not searching alone, not moving alone, anti-totalitarian. And still
When I say totalitarian, what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously) ….
as we read also in Kundera’s book.
Doesn’t this mean that we need a radical rewriting of the scenario, instead of the US-lead and Hungarian-regionalist applauded tightening of the reactionary course? A socio-political course that is based on criminal offenses (watch here from the docu The Corporation.), executed by psychopaths (watch here from the docu The Corporation), the political “clowns” only their executors and implementers as we saw it earlier in history.

Attempts and Contributions

My modest contribution to a DIEM-meeting in Greece these days:
The Europe we know is dead – and it worked for a long time to forge the weapon that would work first to dig the grave and then to kill the ambitions. — The ambitions? We have to be careful: the ambitions, as ideas, had beens surely valuable and meant to establish a “good society”. But especially here in Greece, the home-country of Aristotle, we know what a good society really is: he Aristotle juxtaposes chrematistike and oikonomia, only the latter being concerned with a truly integrated system, and with this he refused moneymaking as end in itself.
Talking about oikonomia meant as well to accept the limits of growth.
Europe today – and it did not learn from Greece, not from BREXIT, Nice nor Ankara – is still based on the acceptance of what we may call Capitaloscene. And the following, written by Jason Moore, can capture it:

The decisive historical expression of Cheap Nature in the modern era is the Four Cheaps of labor- power, food, energy, and raw materials. These Four Cheaps are the major way that capital prevents the mass of capital from rising too fast in relation to the mass of appropriated cheap nature – when the delivery of such cheap natures approaches the average value composition of world commodity production, the world-ecological surplus falls and the pace of accumulation slackens. The centrality of cheap nature in the endless of capital can, then, be adequately interpreted only through a post- Cartesian frame that understands value as a way of organizing nature. In this, the law of value is co- produced through the web of life. We cannot make sense of value through a Cartesian sorting of “labor and nature” – commonplace in left green thought (e.g. Clark and York, 2005). Rather, be- cause value relations encompass a contradictory unity of exploitation and appropriation heedless of a Cartesian divide, only an analysis that proceeds from essential unity of humanity-in-nature can move us forward. The present argument, then, is a brief for such a post-Cartesian – I would call it world-ecological – reading of value. The goal is to focus our attention on the relations of the oikeios that form and re-form capitalism’s successive contradictory unities of the exploitation of labor- power (paid work) and the appropriation of a global zone of reproduction (unpaid work) from the family to the biosphere.

And furthermore this capitaloscene is about unpaid labour – only that made paid labour possible. …

Indeed, we need an antroponomic shift: a shift that is not a revival of the old idea. As said, this Europe is dead and we should be ready to burry it. There is a valuable heritage of ideas though and we have to select carefully And  we have to make use of the heritage of an enormous wealth that is available, though not used for the people and projects we need. We have too make “cheaps” a source for the future, valuable and to be paid for. And to accept the limits of growth means that the corpse of the most competitive Europe, celebrated 2000 in Lisbon, has to bear the child of a most cooperative partner in a world that serves the global citizen.

Europe is dead – long live Europe.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Thanks Conny!!

SOLIDAR Weekly Round Up 15-07-2016

Editorial by Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

15 July 2016

Yesterday, 14th July, Bastille Day commemorates the French Revolution. Its three principles engraved on every town hall and every public school in France have again been under attack, this time in Nice. What more symbolic day! France is mourning yet again and we express again our solidarity reaffirming that the defense of democracy, of freedom, equality and solidarity, the call for social progress remains the core of our commitment, our compass!

After the Brexit vote, these principles should more than ever lead a value-based debate on European policy.

Liberté is not only a principle of rights, it also means being free from poverty and exclusion. The 125 million people in Europe who live in, or under the threat of, poverty do not have Liberté. How can we get them out of poverty? How can we get the less qualified back into the labour market and into decent work? The EU had – once upon a time – a social agenda, a Lisbon strategy and later it had a Europe2020 strategy. Unfortunately, instead of taking the lead and using the mid-term review of Europe2020 as a basis for action, the Juncker Commission is instead continuing the European semester process, while not working on improvement of the strategy to make it more effective. The news that the ECOFIN Council has decided to send a letter to Spain and Portugal illustrates the main reference to guideline Number 1 of Europe2020: “the vigorous application of the Stability and Growth Pact”. In the interpretation of Schäuble and others, vigorous means vigorous, without taking into account the damage it has on society or without even taking electoral results and referendum results into account. Did the message not get through? This European Union of austerity has been rejected as the majority of citizens do not have the feeling that the EU cares about them.

Egalité. In the last four years the Commission has reported on Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE). We are not all equal. We are still a long way from equal pay for equal work in the same workplace. The gender pay gap is still huge, not to mention the unfair tax system that allows tax evasion and tax havens for the rich. Since 2008 there have been some efforts to tame the financial markets, but these initiatives have been watered down under a Commission President who has now been recruited by the bank responsible for the implosion of the financial markets eight years ago. So much for the the credibility of leaders! Only a handful protested at the publication of this news; at the same time some people in the European Parliament were preparing a report on whether Civil Society Organisations and NGOs should continue to be financially supported by the EU when they are being ‘too critical’ of it.

Fraternité. Competitiveness is the new criterion under which everything is evaluated. The dangerous poison of nationalism is unleashed because there is now also competition between member states in the north and member states in the south. Pensioners in Greece and in Germany are in completely different situations, but both expect the EU to contribute to ensuring the stability and the availability of decent, ‘poverty-preventing’ pensions. And what about the arrival of migrants and refugees? After the wave of solidarity last year, the Balkan route is now closed and people are dying daily in the new ‘Dead Sea’ (i.e. the Mediterranean). There are indeed fewer images on the news but the human loss is immense and it cannot be excused by ignorance. How to strengthen a sense of solidarity (Fraternité) is indeed a challenge, but first the mutual benefits of sharing need to be proven before solidarity can mould our thinking.

This foreword is not a new “J’accuse” in the Emile Zola sense. These are just the thoughts that many of us have who want the EU to progress, but we want an EU with different assumptions. Sustainable economic, social and political development, social investment and social protection for all should be the basis of the EU. We Europeans have to take the lead in the post-Brexit debate. We have to challenge the political leaders and the policy makers in the Institutions to make sure they put people’s concerns first. They should use the momentum for political change that delivers a real safeguarding pillar of social rights, and that translates the Sustainable Development Goals agenda into an ambitious European agenda. They should trust the next generation and promote their skills and competences and deliver on integration and the inclusion of migrants and refugees. Ambitious? Maybe! But still feasible. It is a matter of will. Those who believe that this Europe should first be destroyed and then reconstructed are playing with fire and instead they should learn from history. Reform is not a term of abuse, it is a progressive challenge!

See also Immanuel Wallerstein’s

Commentary No. 429, July 15, 2016: “Bastille Day: France’s Ultra-Confused Present”