Populism in the Light of Political Economy – Tentative Reflections

The recording of the presentation on some

Tentative Reflections on Populism in the Light of Political Economy
during the
Workshop Political Economy of ‘Authoritarianism’ and ‘Right Wing Populism’
Organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation in Berlin on November 8th and 9th 2017
is now uploaded. Added are also some remarks I made during the debates.
The music at the beginning and the end is taken from
Mikis Theodorakis’ Zorba The Greek – Original Score By Film Music
Annunci

Reading history – slowly and in large steps

beMemorials are important as we are only by remembering, i.e.

consciously re-(-sur-)-facing

enables us visioning the future, needed to act today. All this is much more demanding than behaving.

Memorials are important, and perhaps even more so if they remind us and allow us questioning – as it happened recently, the second day, coming after a long time to Munich again. The first day I actually met a friend – a nice surprise call:

Time for a coffee?

I was sitting in the coffee shop at the Amalienstrasse anyway, so not much could have been nicer. We had been chatting – amongst others about the fame of places, and for Munich it unfortunately means not least that it is famous for the beer festival and the German dark ages of the last century …

The next day I strolled a bit around. Though I thought I would know those places, actually visited some with a group of students from Ireland, several years ago, I saw one that I passed as frequent as it remained unrecognised by me, all the times ignored. Was it because moving along Briennerstrasse/Maximilian Strasse did not make me expect much, just outrageous wealth?

“Im gedenken an die opfer der nationalsozialistischen gewaltherrschaft   –   verfolgt aus politischen gründen   verfolgt aus rassistischen gründen   verfolgt aus religiösen gründen   verfolgt wegen ihrer sexuellen identität   verfolgt wegen ihrer behinderung”

In my own translation

“In memory of the victims of the national-socialist tyranny persecuted for political reasons, persecuted for racist reasons, persecutedr for religious reasons, persecuted because of their sexual identity, because of their disability[1]

 

Written in the wall behind the pillar, accommodating the eternal fire

– all part of the monument which has been launched on November 8th, 1985 by the then Lord Major, Georg Kronawitter.

I was alerted by the words

BECAUSE …

Then I looked again, reading the entire text.

FOR political, racist, religious REASONS….

Indeed, for the German fascists it had been “sufficient”: being gay, being Jew …, all this has been a sufficient ‘reason’ to terminate the life of people, ‘arguments’ in a state which seemingly did not need arguments. A state that used its power arbitrarily – Max Weber comes to mind, speaking of the

“state” insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.[2]

Memorial – in German language the term carries some ambiguity with it. It simply means memorial, but can also be read as: “hang on, think!”

Had people really been killed because they were Jews, disabled ….?

Were they killed for political and the other names reasons?

Doesn’t this easily make us overlook the real reasons? What seemed to be arbitrary violence, was in fact a sophisticated system of an authoritarian state which was needed as backing of an economic system that was fatally wounded: a capitalism that was not really capitalism anymore but a system in which profit-making was not linked to profitable accumulation (which is a bad enough system anyway) but on the violent securitisation of profits made in a system in which finance is not about money but about the permanent reaffirmation of power.

******

This reminds us of what the quarterly view said, quoted in volume one of Marx’ The Capital; and it reminds us of what Saskia Sassen presented:

So I sort of want to throw out the notion that finance is a capability. And so when you look at some of the measures of its value today, for instance outstanding derivatives, a basic measure—a quadrillion…that money doesn’t exist, you know. Global GDP is something like sixty trillion. There is no— Quadrillion is many many zeros. I know that in Europe you have different designations. It’s more zeros than you’re used to in your average figures that you see with lots of zeros—it’s more than a trillion, let’s put it that way.

So I think one first step is to distinguish between traditional banking, which sells money it has (or it can borrow very quickly, whatever) and finance, which sells something it does not have. And in that selling what it does not have lies its creativity. It has to invent instruments. And secondly—and they go together—it has to invade other sectors. Because it itself does not have what it needs to produce.

******

And we may feel reminded when reading the manager magazine, as I did that day – in some way one may call it the gossip-journal of parts of the upper classes.

Finance not being equal to money, as much as life does not equal living. It is frequently suggested that there are two options, the one being about working to live, the other living to work. In this case there may be a third way, saying that life is work and work is living. Sure, this opens to a broad discussion. One point that can be made is that put forward by the old idealist, bit of a dream-dancer, Schiller, demanding

Reason also utters the decision that man shall only play with beauty, and he shall only play with beauty.

For, to speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

While this comes along as a nice suggestion, it urgently needs a material foundation that allows play of that kind. It requires a material situation that is marked not by resources that are merely enough to survive but is in need of amounts that are surely enough to live from.

The material side of ‘playing’ is surely not a problem for perverted highflyers, but they have problems, mental problem of lost grounding. So to the gossip-journal then, and really going into its going to the gossip section means to dive into the article on Ibiza,

as life-style island an international brand[3]

We see them removed from living not because of the need to merely secure life, but because their life needs to be stylised and branded – I am not really into any of it, I supposed it is like people who lost their hair, replacing it by a wig: artificial and more beautiful than reality is. And of course, it has to be a wig with brand-name – interesting by the way: assuming something, I checked Leo’s dictionaries. I see the following

 

 

Yes, brand – the trademark – is the also the term of the mark by which horses had been classified and ‘proprietised’ …: Oh glory, may be we should not think only of refeudalisation – see also here – but also about animalisation: the return to instincts as foundation and guideline. What makes it worse, more weird than it is anyway: we press the burning iron against our own skin and instead of feeling the pain we turn it into pleasure …

Oh,

Fuck me, I’m famous[4]

This is the new stoned of leisure society, as Tired Is The New Stoned of the postmodern work society, tired suggesting that one is extremely busy, even too busy to be really busy when it comes to working life – presence everywhere and anytime. It is like being too tired to actually sleep. And all this is also the illusion of singularity: be it singularity in the understanding of the Big Bang, or as claimed hyper-individuality.

Sure,

[t]he spreading luxury begins to be a problem for accommodation – for those who lack privileges. Because the personnel cannot commute between mainland and island and the rents are exorbitant, many spend the nights in the cars or on the balconies, let by enterprising Ibizians. For having a shower a membership In one of the gyms s recommended.[5]

And paradoxes, as usual, are included as the highflyers search for seclusion …, and of course it is not a problem as a

concierge service … offering any service to his moneyed customers, around the clock. The most have only one: anonymity.[6]

Also no problem as

It is easy on Ibiza to dive away, …, [in both ways:] hiding from the media and escaping from reality.[7]

Not being famous, not being rich and powerful? The solution may be found in another world

Yaşamak bir ağaç gibi

tek ve hür ve bir orman gibi

kardeşçesine,

bu hasret bizim.

Nâzım Hikmet

Translated into English

To live in solitude and free

like a tree but on the same time

like a forest in solidarity

this yearning is ours.

Nâzım Hikmet

******

But that solution is somewhat a paradox in its own terms – the going together with others and the withdrawal. The danger of escapism – actionism, saving life, searching tranquility of living, and in both respects depending eon others and the own personality.

As I wrote later those days to a friend back in China

I was reading the ‘manager magazine’ yesterday – only reading such stuff when I get it for free. Amazing to read about fascinating careers and enterprises … – most successful … and when I allowed myself a closer look I was thinking about ‘for what’? People doing things, making a huge fortune and that was it: no purpose, just following some ‘instinct’, struggling without knowing for what … – not sure if I can explain it well. But I thought: well, may be not so bad lacking that kind of wealth but being ‘content’ in some ways.

Again and again I feel obliged – in different contexts and different times, addressing different people – to mark the difference between living, life and now in addition the life style as stylised life – products changing their character, being commodities; it translates into the human being commodities: in the one case the human labour power, in the other case the stylisation of life – two ways of terminating living.

And as I wrote – as PS – to the colleagues with whom I share the responsibility in the Joerg-Huffschmid-Award.[8]

PS: Being now in the ‘rich city of Munich’ I cannot refrain from writing the following yesterday: Yesterday I arrived here I Munich, and with this, after living more than two years in China, in Germany. Piece, and especially joyfulness: In all the shops the window displays for the Oktoberfest, Munich’s beer festival, because ‘casual wear’ as dress code means in this case it should be authentic-colourful costume-like garb. There is bit of a problem with the pancake [well, ‘those years’ it was a kind of teasing trinity: piece, joyfulness, pancakes]: I will not mention the rent I have to pay for my tiny flat. One impression from today, early in the morning I want to mention: an elderly lady moved with her bike from waste bin to waste bin [well even at this stage not everything is completely privatised] … – it is probably her proactive approach to life, avoiding ending up as beggar – that is part of the first impressions, arriving in the rich city of Munich, the impression after teaching two years in China, where – under the leadership of a university with a supposedly high ranking – young, curious personalities are encouraged to ‘seize the world’ … , and seizing it according to which rules? Here you may get an impression.

And I remembered the headlines I red some time ago – also impressions, anecdotal ….

Die besten jobs für Renter – the best jobs for retirees

the other

Wiesn – die bittere Wahrheit – Munich Beerfestival, the bitter truth

Yes, once upon a time, in 1986, the Christian Democrats promised:

„Denn eins ist sicher: Die Rente“ – But there is one thing you can rely on: the pension.

You can rely on, you hardly make a living, you may just stay alive, and even for that you may need a job, and even then ‘living’, by way of going out for a pint,  having fun is limited – well, sure, there are surely also other ways of having fun, most likely equally liked; and it does not play a role that of indigenous Bavarians it is not about a pint but a Mass, but they also say:

“Ah geh weida, dees is doo mia wurschd, wia ma dees iatz auf Houchdeidsch schreibd, Haubdsach, schmegga duads ma, mei Mass Bier”

And I remembered a paragraph, taken from Freeland’s book on The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else:[9]

If you traveled to Mountain View to visit Eric Schmidt when he was CEO of Google, you would have found him in a narrow office barely big enough to hold three people. The equations on the whiteboard may well have been scribbled by one of the engineers who works next door and is welcome to use the chief’s office whenever he’s not in. And while it is okay to have a private jet in the Valley, employing a chauffeur is frowned upon. “Whereas in other cultures, you can drive your Rolls-Royce around and just sort of look rich and have a really good time, in technology it’s not socially okay to have a driver who drives you to work every day,” Schmidt told me. “I don’t know why, but you’ll notice nobody does it.”

This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. “Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out,” Schmidt explained. “We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person. Which I find sort of offensive, but it is the way it’s done.”

******

Back to square one of these reflections on antifascist memorials, reasons and the reasoning about life, living and branding lifestyles and the implied animalisation. Doesn’t all this show n an excellent way the real because and rationales: What happened:

  • the holocaust which was also a system of exploiting humans down to the bones
  • in a nutshell: the war of one country against the rest of the world, a slightly extended interpretation: the new division of the world amongst different political and economic powers
  • the establishment of a ‘culture of animalisation’, artificially breeding destructive and even self-destructive instincts
  • the breeding of culture of fear, emerging from the fear of complete disempowerment

are surely a frightening development – and the need of remembering, i.e.

consciously re-(-sur-)-facing

enabling us to vision the future, being needed to act today surely should also look at capitalism today. The meaning of the words of Brecht’s Epilogue from the parable play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui [written in 1941) have to be taken very seriously, even and because of Arturo Ui today changed names, wears different clothes and my be found on Ibiza, stylizing animalistic non-sense, i.e. dangerously breeding senseless instincts against human kind

Therefore learn how to see and not to gape.

To act instead of talking all day long.

The womb he crawled from still is going strong.

******

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denkmal_für_die_Opfer_der_NS-Gewaltherrschaft_(München)

[2] Weber, Economy and Society; page 54

[3] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[4] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[5] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[6] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[7] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[8] On the 6th of December there will be a public event, taking place in Berlin, handing over the two awards

[9] Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press: 123

 

 

 

 

 

Reminder for the Future

It may be questionable to state one day, one event as beginning of a war, though it had been the first of September nineteen-hundred-thirty-nine that the German troops invaded Poland, under false accusations. The date is taken as occasion to post a reminder, unfortunately seeing today again so many reasons in so many countries to be mobilised against moves towards violence and war. Many ways can be imagined, many wise things said – in length and in short slogans and paintings and demands – as already Kaethe Kollwitz’ lithography from 1924,

[1]

demanding ‘Never again War’.

There is one short passage in Zuckmeyer’s The Devils General, which brings it in an impressive way the point – not translating well from the German. It is part of the dispute between SS-group-leader Schmidt-Lausitz and general Harras, the latter shouting against the group-leader:

What did you just say? Fatherland [Vaterland]? You? What do you understand as fatherland? Hä? Just spell it!

V as Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court of Justice)! A as hanging! T as death! E as shooting! R as racial persecution! L as camp! Ausschwitz, Neuengamme, Dachau

You see, this is how fatherland is spelled today in Germany!

the original German version:

“Watt haben Sie da gesagt?” Vaterland?! Sie? Was versteh Sie den darunter?

“Hä? Buchstabieren Sie doch mal”

“V wie Volksgerichtshof! A wie Aufhängen! T wie Tod! E wie Erschießen! R wie Rassenverfolgung! L wie Lager! Ausschwitz, Neuengamme, Dachau

Sehen Sie, so buchstabiert man heute in Deutschland Vaterland!”

[For the short scene from the film see here].

Terms and letters, occasions …, all this may be different – but the underlying patterns never changed!

 

 

 

[1]            Antikriegsplakat von Käthe Kollwitz für den Mitteldeutschen Jugendtag 1924 (Lithographie, 95,2 cm x 72,3 cm; Quelle: DHM) – http://www.zeithistorische-forschungen.de/1-2-2007/id%3D4397; 22/08/17

responsibility – responsiveness: trying to avoid the wrong answer

Waiting for the results from Turkey …

… whatever the outcome will be

… daily bread, the worries about securing it … daily routines of getting it – while the ‘big events’ are overshadowing every step, not necessarily all the time present, and still often enough hammering into the brain, shouting over the routines and the daily bread and the worries about securing it … – hammering louder than the footsteps of any individual on the asphalt; different things going through my mind, also my CV came up a short while ago – together with the hammering of the boot-bearing thoughts …

I was wondering if we are now moving back to the stage of considering to delete part of it, hide away what we did and what we have reason to be proud of …? Not that I am fearful, worrying in the strict sense = considering to delete, while being afraid of being deleted. But the need to think about this as being possibly urgently advisable makes me feeling uncomfortable.

What and how can we worrying warriors and warring worriers teach young people, the future to stand up if we live under conditions that nature such ideas …?
Let us hope, not for me, surely a bit for ‘us’ who do not want to stand there as spectators but especially for those to which we committed out selves, for ‘those future social lifes’

Populism – more than a political trend?

The debate on populism and he New Right surely needs considerations that go beyond political and institionalist considerations, not least looking at the political economy in which it stands and that stands at firm wall behind it. In preparation of a workshop later this year, organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, I developed some reflections which surely need further elaborations but may be already at this stage worthwhile tobe read. The beginning goes like this.

The fundamental first question is if we can still speak of a political left and right. And a definitive affirmation is underlying the main argument of the following. The reason for raising this issue is not the general ‘totalitarianism doctrine’ but its specific resurgence based on the view of both, left and right, being populist-authoritarian – as such, the currently fashionable argument is actually not referring to any concept of totalitarianism in the normally suggested understanding. Instead, Dalio et altera insinuate that ‘[p]opulism is a political and social phenomenon that arises from the common man being fed up with 1) wealth and opportunity gaps, 2) perceived cultural threats from those with different values in the country and from outsiders, 3) the “establishment elites” in positions of power, and 4) government not working effectively for them. These sentiments lead that constituency to put strong leaders in power.’[1] They interpreted this as ‘a rebellion of the common man against the elites and, to some extent, against the system.’[2] There is on the other hand too little concern with more detailed analysis, i.e. an analysis that engages as well openly in the contradictory nature of the shifts in the political landscape, and the fact that we should not be simply concerned with ‘enemy bashing’ but instead – looking at the details – we have to move towards searching for concrete utopias as alternative.[3] In fact that requires also that the left fully returns to sound arguments, not denying any problems nor suggesting arguments on the basis of moral sentiments.

And the further elaboration – as far as it stands now – can be found here. Of course, start of a debate, not final statement on an issue.

=====

[1] Dalio, Ray et altera; Bridgewater Associates, 2017, March 22: Populism: The Phenomenon; Bridgewater. Daily Observations: 2; https://www.bridgewater.com/resources/bwam032217.pdf; 31/03/17

[2] Ibid.

[3] see in this context an interesting study, on Italy, problematising the background in the overall political patterns, past and present, not least issuing the secular changes of the political culture: The Economist. Intelligence Unit, 2017, March 24th: More fragmentation: back to the first republic?; http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=265252810&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWVdJM1pUTXpZamMzTm1JMyIsInQiOiI0bzU0Tmlad2xyVlVqUms2K3diSVJxNUt1c1RVdU1SUzVsZzRTRWpvcEhFa0U5cnBVaFBvbUY1YVBhaDNzRFU0cW5lY1A4SHRZd1JOMHZVa3J0WWFTMDF2UGhYckxcL2QyUkZpRnBVNDZyaGdBUWF3N3FyZHE5VWowXC84R0xLXC9KMSJ9; 31/03/17; see in this context also Anderson, Perry, 2017, March: Why the system will still win; in: Le Monde diplomatique; https://mondediplo.com/2017/03/02brexit; 02/04/17; Anderson, meaning populist movements from>>>> the right speaks of ‘anti-systemic movements’

 

Don’t claim one day “But we did not know” …

After 1945, frequently people claimed “But we did not know” … – if this even may be true in some individual cases, they surely could have known … . And so we can know today about the tomorrow – and still can prevent THAT tomorrow to become real.

Across Europe, there is growing support for far-right candidates who are aiming for Trump-like victories in what has been dubbed the “post-truth” era of politics.

France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen called Thursday for cuts to free education for foreign children. “Today the United States, tomorrow France,” she said following Trump’s shock presidential win.

So, you (can) know – even if you may want to say “I just can’t believe it