“25 YEARS OF NEOLIBERALISM MADE SURE THAT THE SOCIETAL MISFORTUNE HAS TURNED INTO A COMPLETELY ABSTRACT FACTOR.”
The Majority as a Sect X
The demands of the Bundestag election campaign are dropping by the hour, there is no hope for the »day after«. The media, who have humor their clientele, are talking the question if Mrs. Merkel is going to govern on together with the FDP or if the Green Party step up as Sophie’s Choice for the whole republic. You should not try to find the reasons for this dreariness, whose complementary part is the persistence of the racism of the AfD, at the place where people are complaining as vociferously as cheaply about it – in the political operations. In a series, that will be continued up to the »day after« Felix Klopotek will analyze the fundamental structures of the »politics of the center«, in which rise and fall of the political morality will solidify exemplarily.
Fighting first, solidarity second
Many leftists, especially those who are organized in a party or union, are complaining about a continuously worsening state of desolidarization in these weeks and months: Unionists give account about colleagues who might be active in company politics, people you could definitely count on during a strike, but who at the same time, when taking a look outside of the confines of the company, are firmly in alignment with the AfD. Activists are reporting that they are being challenged about supporting »minorities« in relation to »identity politics« at a time where only the »bread & butter« question is essential.
You can play this game the other way around as well: Everyone who seems to be fixated too much on »class politics« has at times also to deal with accusations of sexism and racism. It’s astonishing: About two years ago, at demonstrations from child care workers, who were demonstrating fiercely, the author of these lines had heard comments about »the Greeks«, and about how we should not put up with them anymore. Two years ago the majority of the Greek citizens were rebelling against the European austerity plans and neoliberal measures of eradication forced upon them not least by Wolfgang Schäuble.
The local Left, who is experiencing its powerlessness – and therefore also a lack of influence – in situations like this, does deduce from it to fight even more for solidarity. Because it is true that only if the child care workers are recognizing their very own interests in the struggle of the Greek people a European axis of common resistance against austerity politics, societal discriminations and wasteland-zones of poverty and gentrification can arise. Only a trans-European, and, in consequence, global resistance, can eventually rock the structures of power and exploitation in the EU, in the »West« and eventually in the world.
But what does it mean – fighting for solidarity? It means to fight exactly for the things that the people – in the company, in the ruined residential areas, in the schools and universities – are rejecting. In fact very aggressively.
Because everybody knows how alarming the conditions are in this republic that presents itself so smug and complacent, especially in this election summer:
- The housing situation in the cities is escalating – in the country of tenants the housing market of those tenants has been turned into a seething cauldron; by the way, one of the aftermaths of the upcoming inhabitability of our cities is the rise in commuters, the people are moving to the countryside and are undertaking – a deprivation of life time – ever longer journeys to get to work, which as an effect also enhances the pollution.
- And that would be the next buzzword: the diesel oil affair, that is mostly affecting the drivers of older models of diesel cars, those people who do not have the money to buy a new car every two or three years.
- The workforces of the bigger businesses – especially in the automotive industry – are split into the permanent workforce and contract workers, who are distinctly worse off (an enormous factor for desolidarization).
Even worse off than the contract workers is the »precarity«, the toilet cleaners, package haulers, warehouse staff, security guards, sex workers, cleaners and people who warm up bread rolls, ultimately the illegals, in principle all of those people who are supposed to be excluded from the upward social mobility.
- Following this, we should talk about the enormous investment gaps in the education sector and about the ruined infrastructure as well – for example, the unreliable Deutsche Bahn and its ailing railway lines (and who are the people who have to suffer because of this?)
All of this isn’t news. And it is not alarmism to point it out. The problems are familiar and the people are not ignoring them. It is rather the fact that they are not relating them to themselves, to their social existence, the misfortune is always coming to others, and if it hits you you just hope to quickly find a solution, an individual one of course.
25 years of neoliberalism made sure that the social misfortune has turned into a completely abstract variable, it somehow is always there, but uncontrollable, so it just makes sense that the only sensible interaction with this misfortune can be an individual one. If the world isn’t going to change anymore, at least I can change myself.
Lacking in solidarity – that has always been the normal condition of capitalism, the story of all class struggles has always begun with the weak ones, the disconnected ones, and the jaded ones fighting one another and kicking down where possible. What’s new in neoliberalism is the radical individualization of our fates, or to put it correctly: the appearance of individualization, because in the end, the fates are resembling each other in a troubling manner.
This individualization of misery cannot completely exist without a social resonance chamber. Everyone who has seen the debate of the candidates for chancellor on September 3rd with at least partly open eyes (I know that this was hard) was reminded of this: It was almost exclusively about deportation, refugees, and integration. Merkel and Schulz didn’t use their rhetoric of dissociation to pander to AfD- topics or their fear to lose topics to the AfD, their rhetoric was by all means authentic. They would not have talked substantially different if the AfD would never have been founded. Why? Because the refugee, the immigrant, the foreigners are being pigeonholed as the others per se, as those who most likely have to serve to represent the abstract societal misfortune.
The bottom line of this discourse of dissociation and disenfranchisement is: If you don’t want to be like »them« – homeless, alienated from the language, forced back into the third or fourth job market, eyed warily or paranoid in regards to the religious or ideological views –, then you have to team up against »then«. Or rather hand the mandate to Merkel or Schulz.
This is how the system of racism, which is intimately connected to the system of work under neoliberal-capitalist circumstances, is being constituted.
How do we get out of this?
The first step for the Left should be not to see solidarity as the starting point for acting, but its opposite. That is not just an intellectual game about the apt perception. Solidarity is only established in and after social struggles, it is always precarious. It is foreseeable that Germany will be unsettled by violent class struggles, or to be more precise: from class struggles that will have the potential to affect society as a whole. (A far fetched speculation? Two years ago child care workers were striking and independent from this, but at the same time, mail and package carriers as well, that was, by all means, intense, although these events have already disappeared from the societal and left conscience. Strikes and class struggles are social facts that are nothing exceptional in this parts).
It can be expected that the strikers will be on their own, politics and media will be against them, the trade unions, institutions of disenfranchisement themselves will press for moderation right up self-abandonment, support from other segments of the working class can hardly be expected at first. Especially in a situation like this the strikers have to pit on radicalization – and have to encourage the Left on this – because taking the bull by the horns is the only prospect to enforce their own demands enough so that they in principle are non-negotiable. They will then withstand the pressure of neoliberalism and could be a role model for further struggles. In this hardening process, solidarity will arise.
This is not a guarantee for success. The Left likes to look for such guarantees, most of the time they are falling back to historico-philosophical speculations. The only thing guaranteed until now have only been disappointments, the Left has resigned itself to them decades ago. A romantic attitude. The return to a sober realism would be the first step.
Translation from the German original version by Denise Oemcke