Werner Grundmann Berlin, February 20, 2008
Publication: February 21, 2008
Insights gained from the Berlin Theses for a post-capitalist community order
– Translation in first version –
On October 5, 2007, I published on my homepage
in German language the first version of the “Berlin theses for a post-capitalist community order” in the version of October 4, 2007. The following insights from the Berlin Theses are based on this initial version.
The Berlin Theses should be understood as a scientific conception for justifying the existentially necessary replacement of capitalism as a social system and for the creation of a new world-wide community order. Either it will be possible to replace the capitalist order in time by a new order capable of surviving, or humanity will perish by way of the self-destructive capitalist system.
The Berlin Theses are addressed in the first place to scientists and to politicians. By way of the following “Insights” I want to reach a broader circle of readers and convey the hope to all people that there is a way out of the dead end in which humanity finds itself today due to the sharpening of the ecological crisis. I see this way in the timely introduction of a development that enables us to pass from the “against one another” to the “together with each other”, which makes it necessary to gradually replace the existing competitive economy by a common oriented economy.
In working out the Berlin Theses, I departed from the Marxist insight into the historical sequence of economic social formations. The theses should adequately justify that to secure the survival of humanity any post-capitalist order should be an economic formation of new quality: a world-wide community order on the basis of common ownership, common property and communal economy.
The justification of the community order that is existentially necessary to strive for is provided by a more complex point of view in comparison to the Marxist approach. The greater complexity consists in:
- first of all, the additional inclusion of private, social, and state property in nature;
- second, the extended look at all exploiter societies as self-enrichment societies,
- thirdly, minding the hints by Marx and Engels that next to the predominant gain and profit-oriented economy, there exists another, a need-oriented economy, and
- fourthly, the description and utilisation of this other economy for an integrated solution of the ecological and the social question.
The proposal to introduce the development of an exploitation-free, a post-capitalist community order is based on the presumed existence of an up to now unknown dialectical law that I call the dialectical law of unification or divergence. It leaves in tendency only the choice between the gradual communionation of persons, peoples and cultures into common action in order to secure the survival of humanity or social division and struggle between individualistically branded people in economic competition and wars up to total self-annihilation. This communionation necessarily includes preventing the continued abuse of religion and ideologies for the inner and outer division among nations, people and cultures.
To the two contrary developmental paths, there correspond two economies: the communal economy and the private economy. They are the respective basis for the different economic forms that articulate themselves at the different levels in communities, enterprises, regions, associations, societies, nations and networks organised on a global scale. The communal economy orients towards the rational satisfaction of the totality of commonly recognised needs, the private economy towards maximal profits from the respective production and the services rendered under application of the principle of efficiency. In its exaggerated form, the principle of efficiency becomes a principle of self-enrichment linked primarily to the assets of the so-called financial economy, where the relationship between cost and benefit lags ever more behind. The economic sciences wrongly up until today equate efficiency with economy.
The communal economy is to start with aimed primarily at the rational maintenance and the improvement of the life conditions of the community as well as at the rational shaping of its live and the securing of its survival. The goals of such a community thus do not stand in competition to the goals of other communities insofar as the life bases of all involved and concerned communities are not threatened. To strive for rationality in the more comprehensive sense includes rational production and reproduction as well as a more rational way of life. It can be measured by the overall time expenditure for the mutually agreed upon way of life and production and, to start with, is not linked to economic value categories. If it is possible to reduce the overall time effort, then there results the possibility of a general reduction of the socially necessary working time, or there remains free work time in order to strive for new mutually agreed upon goals. Only when it is a matter of measuring the efforts of the individuals and the distribution of the commonly produced goods in the context of the community as well as the exchange of products with other communities, an equivalent becomes necessary in order to evaluate different efforts and exchange dissimilar products.
It is decisive for the securing of a socially tolerated, a peaceful transition to a post-capitalist order that the communities newly forming themselves consciously strive
for a pattern of life and production on the basis of common ownership and community property using a communal economy, however, that they do not compete with the existing social system. Revolutions that violently brush away the existing system of rule can produce both political confrontation as well as economic competition with the existing social system. They must be refused, because they may lead to wars or even to world wars. By way of the Berlin Theses, I therefore also try to prove why the build-up of a socialist order in economic competition to the capitalist economy needed to lead into a dead end, and why a “scientific socialism” with unilateral orientation towards the solution of the social under elimination of the ecological question has no objective right to existence. It was the political and military confrontation as well as the economic competition between the two social systems that has contributed to a proportional exacerbation of the ecological crisis even by the socialist countries and still does so today.
The general burden of proof of the Berlin Theses results from the complex approach, from an integrated economic perspective as well as from the effort to justify the individual theses in a substantive way or to prove them and to agree them with other theses. To that extent, there exists a restricted justification to speak of new insights.
The overall result of the Berlin Theses is that the post-capitalist order must be a hierarchical communal order of a new economic quality that strives for community among people as well as of people with nature by the restoration of natural life systems. The new economic quality consists in no longer understanding the economy as a private or competitive economy that is gain and profit-oriented, but as a communal economy oriented towards needs in the sense of the rational satisfaction of commonly recognised needs of the life communities. The new order has a contrary quality; however, it is not directed against the existing order. Rather the new order is supposed to be built up step by step within the existing orders, whereby gradually ever more people join in communities who live, work and exchange their products or services consciously following the standards of the communal economy on the basis of common property and the requirements of full democracy. The proposed way of life and production then finds sufficient recognition, support and adherence on a broad basis, if it is understood as a way of survival and the communal economy turns out to be an economy of survival, a necessity for securing the survival of humanity. The communal economy will drive out the prevailing economies to the degree that the enlightenment process on the existential threat to humanity by the action of the competitive economies progresses.
At the foundation of the overall result of the Berlin Theses, there lie a number of basic insights:
In accordance with a first insight from the Berlin Theses, capitalist society is an appropriation, exploitation, impoverishment, annihilation and ultimately self-destructive society. It divides society into rich and poor; in the continued striving for economic growth, it uses, makes poorer and in its basic tendency destroys its own foundations of existence and thus our life world. From the insight into this developmental tendency, there grows first of all the common interest of the people in the overcoming of the existing competitive orders.
- Exploitation is the basic, the economic form, the form directly linked to productive self-enrichment that Karl Marx investigated in a thorough way scientifically in “Capital”. As a result, he discovered surplus value that is created by labour power and is appropriated by the capitalist by the expropriation of private enrichment. Yet, there are non-economic forms of enrichment that are not or only conditionally linked to work, where the expense for the appropriation of use values and other results of labour stands in no equivalent relationship to the actual value of exchange. And there is enrichment independently from the creation and use of values, for instance by speculation.
- Among the non-economic forms of enrichment whose abuse in the end phase of capitalist development increases, there belongs the robbery of nature and the burdens on natural life worlds. It is decisive for these forms of enrichment, first of all, that the use values taken from nature have an exchange value and bring in profits without the necessity for an equivalent expenditure of labour; second that the perpetrators of the robbery do not have to pay for the destructions and burdens on nature they cause, that the expense for the regeneration is rather left to later generations or the self-healing forces of nature itself.
- In order to characterise the whole problem of enrichment, we may talk of private, nation-wide, social and personal enrichment at the expense and at the detriment of the pre-world, surrounding world and posterior world.
- Because self-enrichment at the expense of the posterior world is possible to a very high degree, and is acceptable up to and including the exhaustion of all “resources”, for instance of mineral fuels, natural gas and coal, because the cutting-down of forests, slashing and burning and the dying of woods continue, and there do not exist any adequate possibilities to stop this process under capitalist conditions, the tendency to ecological crisis proceeds world-wide and cannot be stopped. Therefore, the replacement of the capitalist system and the transition to a world-wide communal order seem to be the last way of survival remaining to humanity.
A second basic insight from the Berlin Theses is that the global ecological crisis is not caused specifically by social progress, but primarily socially and in particular by the economy. The key for overcoming the ecological crisis is the recognition of the existence of the true economy in the sense of rational satisfaction of needs that corresponds the best to common ways of life and production. In order to be able to strive for a post-capitalist communal order, it is necessary to distinguish between private economy and communal economy, to refuse the equivalency between economic efficiency and economy and to develop and to use communal economy increasingly as a decisive means for reaching community goals. The common itself becomes an economic power!
- Understanding capitalist society as enrichment and impoverishment society in the more comprehensive sense makes it possible to recognise the ecological crisis as socially originated. It results not only from the way of production, but also from the extremely individualistic way of life in the “rich” countries, which shows itself in particular in automobile transport, in plane traffic, in tourism, as well as in the destruction of landscapes by settlement. This way of life especially burdening our nature contributes in an essential way to changing the climate and to unleashing forest fires and other natural catastrophes in a reinforced way. Even though the development of the individualistically dominated way of life in the “rich” countries is also socially conditioned, it also means that despite the progressing ecological crisis, most people on this earth permit themselves a way of life at the cost and expense of their grandchildren and grand- grandchildren.
- The greatest existential threat to humanity grows from the continued injury to ecological equilibrium; that means from the continued reduction of the share of plant life in comparison to the share of animal and human life. If the overall volume of plant life is no longer sufficient to pick up the carbon-dioxide enriched in the atmosphere, there will, after continual warming of the earth atmosphere, finally result at some point a climatic catastrophe. It might end in a world conflagration. The same way as the individual person collapses at a bodily temperature of 42 o C, there is an upper temperature limit for the system of life on earth, whose trespassing would be deadly for all of us!
- The efficiency principle is an indispensable means of all enterprises in the capitalist system. It springs from their interests in gain and survival under conditions of competition. It is linked in particular to market-relevant use values, meaning to goods. The profits are obtained mainly at the cost of the wage dependent and the consumers, but also at the expense of the natural bases of life, because needs without commodity character are negated to start with by the market economy, just as the needs of people without money, meaning without sufficient “demand”. Even though the profit-oriented economic principle is the most important means of private economy, it is in its malfunctions far surpassed under capitalist conditions by the profit-oriented enrichment principle of those capital societies that collect their “revenues” mainly from pure financial affairs as well as from the plundering of nature world-wide.
- While in the socialist countries in the context of national economies on the basis of a similar economy, comparable “environmental sins” were perpetrated as in the capitalist countries, the social basis of the ecological crisis were not recognised by the theoreticians of Marxism-Leninism after the October revolution. Behind the effort to be able to solve the social question successfully under socialist conditions and to want to maintain and strengthen socialism in the systemic confrontations, there takes place and will continue to take place – in parallel to the capitalist countries – also in the socialist countries an ever stronger burdening and destruction of the earthly bases of life.
The third basic insight is that the communal economy for thousands of years has existed in parallel and intertwined with the private economy, that we are intuitively using it in daily life, that, however, as a result of the dominance of private economy in past centuries, the objective existence of this true economy was pushed aside, even though the medieval bourgeois cities and rational common life and survival systems corresponded already to the demands of dominant communal economy, be it on the basis of private economy.
- While goods are only a means for private enterprises in order to reach the largest possible profits and to survive, the subject of communal economies is unrestrictedly and directly oriented towards production or rather the upkeep of all commonly and individually needed use values and services, including the re-naturalisation of our life world. Communal economy makes possible a unified economic approach both to the solution of the ecological as well as of the social question, leads to a rational communal way of production and life and supports the integration of human community into natural life systems.
- This true economy also exists independently of money and other value forms. It results from the natural thinking and behaviour of any human person. Because it can best be responded to within and by way of solidary communities, because it is based to start with on needs recognised by the community as a whole together and in a solidary way, the name communal economy is best appropriate to it.
- Aristotle (384-322 before our era) already attracted attention to two economic sciences already known in antiquity, a fact, to which Karl Marx attracts attention in the first volume of “Capital”, p. 167 (MEW edition). Accordingly, Aristotle describes “chrematistics” as the “art… to make money” and “economics” as the “art of gainful employment” that restricted itself to “obtaining of the goods useful for life and for the household or the state”. For “chrematistic”, “circulation is the source of wealth”. Money was “its beginning and its end”. For “chrematistic” there seems to exist “no frontier to wealth and to possessions”. Aristotle adds: “The confusion of the two forms which play one into the other motivates some to consider the upkeep and the accumulation of money into infinity as the final goal of economics.”
A fourth basic insight explains the world-wide dominance of the capitalist social system from the acting of private economy. It serves itself of the international currency and financial system, in particular the so-called lead currencies. Private economy dominates on the basis of private property, and private ownership in its own development out of itself and in its fundamental tendency dominates the development of whole humanity. For that reason, late-capitalist societies need no dictatorships. In the process of globalisation, they extend their dominance towards the exterior, in the process of privatisation towards the interior.
- The rule of private economy can well be influenced by the means of the capitalist system, for instance, by way of politics, the law or citizens’ vote, but not eliminated in its basic tendency. What appears as “undemocratic” is subject ultimately to the dictate of private economy. It turns out to be true that money rules the world.
- The extension of the rule of private property towards the inside and the outside takes place by networks, meaning the creation of networks as means to private or national enrichment. The up to now most highly developed network is the Internet.
According to the fifth basic insight, the prerequisites for the world-wide replacement of the established social orders can be created gradually by rolling back the private economy and the economies derived from it by communal economy. The gradual elimination should come by the creation of cells of communal economy in all social areas of all people and cultures. In the course of further development, the cells merge into organs and the various organs to life systems of communal economy. Ultimately it is a matter of creating a world community order not tied to state and country borders that is directed by elected representatives. The process of elimination of the prevailing economy by the communal economy in order to be able to manage the ecological crisis and so as to be able create the world community order could be termed ecoism.
- The replacement of the established social orders by a hierarchically structured communal order will extend over decades and be carried out in gradual steps. The first task should be to persuade as many people as possible that the striving for efficiency represents a narrow economical perspective that primarily serves private interests that act at the expense of the surrounding and the posterior worlds and therefore tend to lead into catastrophe.
- At the same time, there should be pointed to already existing forms of community life and the application of communal economy and ways be shown to all responsible people to gradually push aside private economy (and other competitive economies) and to replace it by communal economy. Cells of communal economy could be created for instance by giving work to those marginalised by the market economy, the unemployed, the allegedly superfluous, for instance by the sensible use of the “uneconomic” of the waste society for the rational satisfaction of needs.
- Cells of communal economy should be formed in as many social sectors as possible and at as many locations as possible. It is a community, whose members consciously apply, in the creation and maintenance of useful use values as well as in the execution of services, the principles of communal economy in order to fulfil as independently as possible of the private economy tasks for their own needs and the needs of members of other cells. The exchange of the usable values and services should take place as much as possible without exchange of money on the basis of time expended.
- First cells of communal economy might concentrate their activity in particular on the use (without paying rent) of “superfluous” construction substance slated for demolition, but which they deem worthy of being maintained, others on the renewed cultivation of “inefficient” agricultural space or the reuse of cast-aside technical equipment. The means foreseen by the state for the demolition of construction substance and for the idling of agricultural lands might be used at least in part for the renewed utilisation of the “superfluous” construction substance and the idled lands. Decisive for the social and state acceptance of the communities, it would be that they require no additional means and save taxes to the states.
- In the second step of the creation of cells of communal economy, there should be included those small forms that compete with the large firms and stand before economic ruin. It would have to be a case of using their continued readiness for meaningful work applying the already acquired knowledge and experience as well as disposable technology.
- From the cells of the communal economy, there could be formed later on, by joining, organs of communal economy and from these, by way of yet another merger, local and regional organs organised along principles of division of labour, systems of communal economy which largely provide for themselves.
- By way of the cells, organs and systems of communal economy, there develops a new democratic basis that allows full democracy at all levels. It would exist for quite some time in parallel to the organs of bourgeois democracy; however, it might influence its decisions be it only by the progresses made in the use of the communal economy. Of the development of consciousness for the necessity of implementing full democracy it might depend to what extent bourgeois democracy loses in prestige and existential legitimacy.
A sixth basic insight departs from the mass basis created by means of the communal economy that creates the prerequisites for replacing the established social orders world-wide following decisions by full-bodied democracy. The decisive last step to replacement might consist in the world-wide elimination of the existing forms of value and the way of functioning of the networks of enrichment.
- The way “from below” in form of the positive, solidary use of the use values produced, but not used by market economy will be supplemented by the way “from above”. It expresses itself above all in the ever greater cutting down of capital use and will also require a longer period. It is especially a matter of preventing additional private enrichment at the expense of nature but also of extreme reduction of armament expenditures, of the stop of privatisation deals as well as the reinstatement of public property and possessions.
- A considerable part of the means freed by the reduction of armament expenditures might be used for the realisation of international and world-wide projects. By way of such projects, we might prevent many people in the Third World directly from sickness and starvation. At the same time, people of many countries might be able to develop a common way of thinking and acting.
- We learned from Marx that any society in the final phase of its development (even if it did not even want to) creates the prerequisites for its being surpassed. Since for existential reasons, a compulsion for the timely replacement of the established social systems exists, there remains the question for the decisive step that makes this possible. It might consist in the putting out of action of those electronic means and networks that were created mostly in order to keep in motion economic and financial action for private and national enrichment world-wide and to extend it. This possible final step will certainly be decided upon at the appropriate time in the sense of maintaining the existence of humanity and in a democratic way – in case the understanding of those responsible fails to materialise.
The fundamental insight of the Berlin Theses is that as a result of the dominance of private economy and other forms of competitive economy, humanity will be led – at least in tendency – into climatic catastrophe and self-annihilation, that means humanity will go under together with the social system ruling at this point if it does not succeed in time in replacing the competitive economies by the true economy and in gradually building up step by step, by way of creation of cells as well as of its own structures of communal economy, a community order on the basis of common ownership and common possessions. The prevailing economies correspond to the kind of “chrematistics” which Aristotle explained seemed to know “no frontier to their wealth and possessions”. We have very well recognised the borders: it most likely lies in the finiteness of possible enrichment from consumption and the destruction of all earthly basis of life!
This result permits at the same time a basic criticism of the socialist way: If we accept that slaveholding, feudalism and capitalism were appropriation societies in the comprehensive sense or respectively are, if we recognise furthermore that enrichment at the expense of our life world was possible and that the ecological crisis grew essentially from this enrichment, if we finally admit to ourselves that even the socialist economies participated in the sharpening of the ecological crisis applying the principles of competitive economy, then the socialist way as post-capitalist way must be turned down.
The logic behind these basic statements can be retraced in very few sentences. From the proof that the capitalist society can be understood comprehensively as an enrichment and impoverishment society, there follows:
1) The ecological crisis has social causes!
2) Therefore, our whole civilisation up until today is subject to a negative development!
3) Then the attempt would be suicidal to want to surpass, for instance by way of a “socialism of the 21st century”, the performance of the capitalist economy.
4) The basic reason for our negative development next to the dominant private ownership and property relations is the private economy that equates efficiency and economy.
5) For that reason, we need an economy with ecological orientation contrasting with the private economy that limits the consumption of nature beginning from its very basic concerns and make it possible to solve the ecological question together with the social question.
6) Therefore, it would be necessary to research the existence and the contents of this “true” economy and to propagate it on a world-wide scale.
7) Then all responsible forces of humanity are called upon to introduce a development that uses this “true” economy in order to push back the sphere of influence of the competitive economy as fast as possible and to safeguard the basis of our existence. At the same time, we should investigate how many people our world can carry and nourish in a rational way.
If we recall, to conclude, the Marxian insight about the historical sequence of economic social formations and ask ourselves what could be the economic superiority of the post-capitalist community order, then the answer might be: Even though the community order to be striven for makes it possible to satisfy the totality of socially recognised needs in general and in a more rational way than any other human society in past millennia, its social superiority consist in the possible satisfaction of the one, the decisive need: the need for survival of humanity! Yet, we should not come too late! Otherwise nature will punish us!
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On publication of the “Insights from the Berlin Theses for a post-capitalist community order”:
I herewith approve – renouncing all claims to honorarium – the publication and translation if the whole text is adopted, translated and published. However, I prohibit it explicitly that any kind of person or institution arrogates him/her- or itself the right to resale and sale of the adopted text and the translations worked out on its basis apart from my own publications.
Translator: Carla Krüger, Berlin