What is meant by true socialism

Oskar Lafontaine exclusively : Socialists are the real liberals

40 years ago, in 1971, the FDP general secretary Karl-Hermann Flach published his polemic: “Another chance for the liberals”. The disoriented FDP would be well advised to read this document again. The liberalism of the Freiburg program was left. The core demands of this program are now only represented by the party Die Linke.

We find the idea of ​​freedom in the programs of all political parties. Socialism appeals to them just as much as liberalism does. For me, socialism was and is nothing more than a liberalism that has been thought through to its end. We find the reason for this in one of the most remarkable books I have read recently: “Freedom as a privilege” by Domenico Losurdo, which was published in 2010 by PapyRossa Verlag. In it, the Italian philosopher shows that the liberals in their party history have generally understood freedom as the privilege of a minority. The theorists of liberalism had no problem singing the high song of freedom and at the same time justifying the bondage and oppression of entire peoples and disadvantaged social classes. The enlightener Condorcet wrote in the 18th century about the America of the liberal slave owners George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison: “The American forgets that the Negroes are people; he has no moral relationship whatsoever with them; for him they are merely objects of profit. “Those times are long gone, one will object. But, is this really the truth? Today, many refer to agency work as a modern form of slavery. The verdict would be: “The neoliberal forgets that temporary workers, top-ups or 1-euro jobbers are human beings. He has no moral relationship whatsoever with them; for him they are merely objects of profit “an inadmissible polemic? As long as today's liberals deregulate the labor market and accelerate the expansion of precarious working conditions, they have a perverted concept of freedom and there is certainly no question of “compassionate liberalism”.

Freedom is the right of every person to determine his own life as much as possible. This right is limited by the equal entitlement of fellow human beings. Those who do not know at the end of the month whether they still have enough money to support themselves and their families are not free. And young people who are passed on from one fixed-term employment relationship to the next shy away from starting a family. It is also no coincidence that the Japanese nuclear company Tepco sent temporary workers to the contaminated reactors. Such practices show the ugly grimace of an economic system in which freedom is seen as the privilege of a minority.

Karl-Hermann Flach wrote: "After its great and successful struggle for intellectual freedom, civil rights and the chartered constitution, liberalism partially failed, allowed itself to be abused as a representative of the privileged classes ..." That has not changed to this day. More than almost any other party, the Liberals share responsibility for the increasingly unfair distribution of income and wealth. For Karl-Hermann Flach, liberalism did not mean the freedom and dignity of a class, but personal freedom and human dignity of the greatest possible number. Freedom and equality, he wrote in the socialist tradition of thought, are not just opposites, but are mutually dependent. Capitalism, as the supposed logical consequence of liberalism, weighs on him like a mortgage. The liberalism's liberalism from its class ties and thus from capitalism is therefore the prerequisite for its future.

Socialism is liberalism that has been thought through to the end

What would the new young men of the FDP say if someone told them that liberalism's liberalism from capitalism was the prerequisite for its future? Would you even understand? Karl-Hermann Flach had recognized the role that the ever increasing concentration of assets was threatening freedom: “Today we see even more clearly that private ownership of the means of production and market freedom lead to ever greater injustice, which unbearably restricts the freedom of large numbers compared to small groups. The concentration of wealth in western industrial societies leads to a disparity, even with the rising standard of living and increasing social security of the wage-dependent masses, which removes any basis for the justification of property relations with the concept of personal freedom. "

The liberals of the Freiburg program also asked the question of ownership: what belongs to whom, and for what reasons? Only by answering this question can one tackle the unjust distribution of wealth. Abraham Lincoln recognized as early as 1847: “Most beautiful things are made through work, from which it should by right follow that these things belong to those who made them. But it has always been the case that some have worked and others - without working - enjoyed most of the fruit. This is wrong and should not be continued. "

But this has continued to this day and has so firmly established itself in people's minds as the only conceivable and valid economic order that even legal provisions that suggest a different distribution of property are no longer observed. Section 950 of the German Civil Code says: "Anyone who manufactures a movable thing by processing or transforming one or more substances acquires ownership of the new thing." You can turn it around as you want. According to our BGB, the VWs do not belong to the Piëchs and the BMWs do not belong to the Quandts or Klattens, but to the employees who have manufactured a movable object, the car, by processing and transforming several substances. KH Flach got to the point: “The problem of capitalism is not that entrepreneurs generate and extract profits, but rather that the constantly necessary reinvestment of most of the profits not only creates modern production facilities and jobs, but also a constant increase in wealth in the Hand of the previous owner of the means of production. ”It follows that the constant increase in wealth must primarily benefit the employees and not the owners of the means of production. Today's liberals will find it difficult to understand this.

But you can build a bridge for them so that they can come to new insights. The necessary reinvestment of the largest part of the profits in modern production facilities continues to decline in financial capitalism. Instead of investing, shareholders or managers bring ever larger parts of the profits into the casino.

Even if the demand for liberalism to be liberalized from capitalism is likely to meet with total incomprehension among today's FDP leadership, the task of increasing corporate investment and research expenditure should be a priority for every liberal.

Another possibility for liberals to return to the path of virtue would be to reappropriate the ideas of the Freiburg ordoliberal school. The economists around Walter Eucken and Wilhelm Röpke did not see private property as the real driving force behind the economy, but competition. They were not just about controlling economic power, but about preventing it. In order to maintain and restore competition, they demanded intervention by the state through antitrust laws. The development in the financial sector exemplarily shows how economic power is abused. The private banks and financial service providers have long since nationalized themselves because they have grown so large that the state cannot let them fall in the event of bankruptcy. The Freiburg ordoliberals would clap their hands over their heads if they could watch the goings-on of today's economic politicians. A law should stipulate that the balance sheet volume of any bank in Germany may not exceed 10 percent of GDP. Deutsche Bank, for example, could then have total assets of 250 billion at best, but not one of 2,000 billion. A draft law restricting the balance sheets of the financial institutions would serve the liberals well.

Capitalism weighs on liberalism like a mortgage

How nice it would be if the basic program of a liberal party included the sentence: “Whoever has the benefit must also bear the damage”. Walter Eucken justified this maxim as follows: "Liability is not only a prerequisite for the economic order of competition, but also for a social order in which freedom and personal responsibility prevail."

The neoliberals of all parties today only know personal responsibility as the personal responsibility of the Hartz IV recipients to find their way out of their “self-inflicted” social hardship. A society that claims self-responsibility at the bottom while overriding it at the top ten thousand is just perverse. The much maligned “social hammock” is morally more justifiable than the golden parachute that is used to sweeten the farewell for bankrupt banks. On the welfare state, K. H. Flach wrote: “The legal right to social insurance is in truth the most important title in the industrial mass society. It is not the one who is truly free who bears all the risks of life himself, but the one who is relieved of the fear of involuntary hardship, incalculable risks and old age. ”Like the socialists, Flach sees the welfare state as the necessary prerequisite for a free society. This is where the maxim that freedom and equality are mutually dependent finds its justification. Equality does not mean the same appearance, the same income or the same assets, but rather that all people are equal in their dignity. Human dignity cannot be expressed or calculated in numbers. “In the realm of ends, everything has its price or a dignity. Whatever has a price, something else can be put in its place as equivalent; What is above all prices, on the other hand, and therefore no equivalent is permitted, that has a dignity, ”wrote the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Neoliberalism, which degrades employees to “cost centers with two ears”, misses the essence of human beings. “The vast majority of people are subject to the pressure to adapt in the industrial world of work. They are therefore keenly interested in an objectification of the power relations in companies and a proper legitimation of economic power. Establishing and strengthening civil rights vis-à-vis the state was the great liberal achievement of the 19th century. Strengthening civil rights in the workplace is the liberal task of the 20th and 21st centuries ... The same citizen who elects his legislative bodies, has some influence on the formation of his government and controls his own through a system of public information and discussion Government is involved, slumps back into subjects as economic citizens, ”wrote the former FDP general secretary.

The demand of the Freiburg program to strengthen civil rights in the workplace is in diametrical contrast to the FDP policy of recent years. Dismantling protection against dismissal, perforating collective agreements, temporary work, bogus self-employment, fixed-term employment contracts, the expanding low-wage sector, top-ups, 1-euro and mini-jobs speak an eloquent language.

With a precarious job, life becomes less and less plannable, since everything is designed for the short term, long-term goals are rarely pursued. Against this background, it seems rather strange when all parties, including the liberals, want to make sustainability the basis of their policies in order to do justice to environmental protection. Anyone who wants to protect the environment, and this also applies to the Greens, who have made war acceptable as a political tool, must first learn again how to protect people.

For K. H. Flach, the end never justifies the means. The demand for the appropriateness of the means is a basic demand of liberalism. “Life promises freedom. Where there is no life, freedom can no longer develop. Where there is bondage, but life arises, freedom retains a chance. In this respect, liberalism is hostile to war. ”K. H. Flach wrote these lines at a time when Brandt, Scheel and later Genscher had made renunciation of force the basis of German foreign policy. It was not until the Greens, together with former street fighter Joschka Fischer, as foreign minister, “de-taboo” the military that violence became an accepted means of German foreign policy again. It is a glimmer of hope that Guido Westerwelle, in the Libya conflict, followed up on the policy of renouncing violence, which in earlier years in the USA was reviled as genscherism.

In order to return liberalism to its roots, one does not have to start with the wars over oil and raw materials. The daily struggle for income and wealth is regulated by the social contract. Although property was declared the basis of freedom by the liberals, for centuries the idea that everyone then needs property in order to be free did not prevail. Liberals must return to the doctrine that was still widespread among their founding fathers. Property arises from work and must belong to those who created it. Property and assets that are worked out together cannot be allocated to individuals. Since neither private property nor state property is the solution, we need a new form of property, employee ownership. It is not for sale and is passed on from workforce to workforce rather than from company inheritance to company inheritance. Employees become shareholders who make independent decisions about the future of their jobs. In this way we are opening the door to a new corporate constitution, which is the basis of a genuinely free and democratic society and which overcomes feudalism in the economy. Karl-Hermann Flach was right: Liberalism's liberation from capitalism is the prerequisite for its future.

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