exit! N° 19: Editorial, open letter and appeal for donations
exit! N° 19 is out at zu Klampen Verlag.
What a farce! After the Federal Constitutional Court had reprimanded the government in the spring for not doing enough to combat climate change, thus endangering the lives and freedom of future generations, the ‘functionaries of capital’ could no longer stop pompously praising themselves and emphasizing how much they had already done and implemented in climate protection policy. Of course, the jurisprudence here has nothing else in mind than that the ‘climate crisis’ could be solved within the ‘free democratic basic order.’ With the ‘right policies,’ the ‘right framework,’ ‘the right thing’ would already be implemented, ‘financeability’ and ‘economic growth’ aside. Nothing else can be expected from the traffic light regime. Even more so from the ‘international community of states,’ as the so-called ‘climate summits’ show again and again.
The claim that future generations should not be burdened with ‘mortgages’ in order to enable them to be ‘fit for the future’ is particularly popular when it comes to justifying the thinning out of the social safety net and the deterioration of infrastructure. Accordingly, the young generation would have no future if the state were overindebted. They would have to become poor, make sacrifices and, if necessary, die. The naïve assumption is that by reducing government spending, government revenues can be increased so that the government will have more to spend in the future. Of course, the same is true here: All government spending is equal, but some is more equal than others (loosely based on George Orwell). A reduction in government spending on rearmament is effectively not envisaged.
For so-called sustainability, the present is mobilized and reshaped to meet current valorization needs or to open up new valorization opportunities. This is called ‘modernization’ or ‘development,’ which may of course be ‘sustainable,’ as long as economic growth is not permanently impaired in the process. The main criteria remain the return on investment and the so-called jobs that could possibly be newly created (or recreated under more stringent conditions). Only that which contributes or could contribute to the continued and increased valorization of capital is considered ‘progressive’ or ‘sustainable.’ Such measures sacrifice the present and with it man and nature for a future that is nothing but an abstraction subjugating reality that has nothing to do with an openness for the new or the like, but is only imagined as a continuation of the present. So-called visions of the future presuppose existing relations of domination and fetishism.1 What actually should or must be done (environmental and climate protection) thus becomes a minor matter, if not the exact opposite. In the end, effects are to be fought with means that cause these effects in the first place. If the ‘shaping ability’ of politics (by means of taxes etc.) fails, ultimate technical solutions (geoengineering, artificial intelligence or ‘miracle technologies,’ which might be invented someday), which would supposedly turn the tide at the last moment, are relied upon. Such a submission to self-made conditions and the accompanying fetishization of technology is tantamount to a self-sacrifice of humanity.
This is also evident in digitization. No thought is wasted on the actual content that is to be put into digital form (education, medicine, etc.). The Corona pandemic has given further impetus to the digitalization mania and the associated practices of domination. Digitization is ideally suited for a technocratic reign of terror, as can easily be seen in the Chinese regime.2 The ‘value West’ is also moving in a similar or comparable direction. Change through convergence is apparently the motto of the (post)democratic crisis regimes.3 The Corona pandemic is also being used to expand and modernize existing instruments of repression in order to continue and intensify the police-state approach to crises of all kinds (for example, by further undermining the freedom to demonstrate, the right to strike and workers’ rights).4 This is comparable to the situation after September 11, 2001, when the security apparatus was expanded and modernized, supposedly only in order to combat Islamist terrorism.5
Catastrophic ‘side effects’ of digitization (socio-psychological and ecological) are played down as the price of ‘progress,’ or as ‘collateral damage’; ultimately, they are consciously accepted as ‘fate,’ against which the state may fight with insane regulations (‘voluntary self-commitment’ of companies, tax increases or decreases, etc.) and/or by ensuring with its visible fist that this so-called progress is implemented by force as an alleged ‘historical necessity’ (think of the extraction of raw materials and the accompanying expropriations, the expulsion and murder of indigenous peoples, etc.). You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. In this, Stalinism and (neo)-liberalism are in agreement. Both offer a perfidious rabble-rousing when it comes to selling repressive coercion as ‘freedom.’ The understanding of the capitalist necessity thus sets the framework within which ‘freedom’ has to be realized. The visible fist of the state and its secret service henchmen ensurest that this remains so.6 The ‘liberal-democratic basic order’ (with or without a state of emergency and various dictatorial supplements) thus enables active participation or passive acceptance of the destruction of the world. Bourgeois freedom thus becomes a freedom to die. This disembowelment of bourgeois freedom is all the more pronounced the more the ‘framework of design and choice’ constricts, the more all political measures come to nothing or have the opposite effect. The barrier to state trade is and remains its own financial viability and thus the successful valorization of capital, which, however, is faltering more and more and proving to be a program of world destruction (where we would again arrive at the initial problem). Finally, there is nothing left to choose or to shape within the framework of the capitalist fetish constitution, but this itself must become the object of theoretical as well as practical critique and all imperatives resulting from it (financeability, profitability, jobs) would have to be resolutely opposed. All capitalist ‘criteria of success’ are to be rejected as null and void, and not those who are not (any longer) able to satisfy them. Likewise, production that only takes place if it contributes to the valorization of value (or that still takes place because capital is valorized - even if only on credit) must be rejected.
Starving oneself in order to become ‘fit for the future’7 in the capitalist sense, i.e. in order to be able to assert oneself in competition at the expense of others, is essentially an archaic cult of human sacrifice: “Capitalism as religion” (Walter Benjamin) thus proves to be a sinister idolatry. That ‘future viability’ can also fail becomes clear from the fact that it is denied to certain people. If people appear only as ‘cost factors’ or, in fascist terms, as ‘ballast existences’ or as ‘pests of the people,’ if their life value is measured only by their contribution to the gross domestic product, their destruction is only a question of time (even if it is accepted indirectly, through structural violence).89 Social Darwinist thinking and acting (the common interface between fascism/national socialism and (neo)-liberalism) are thus applied business economics.
The possibility of a future which is not brought about or forced by the continuous sacrifice of the present would be offered only if human decisions and actions are not pre-structured or pre-decided by the a priori matrix of the capitalist constitution of form. Real future capability could therefore only become reality if one begins by taking note of all that has been indicated here radically questions that which has created the present as one that endangers the future. It is clear that this is not only a theoretical question, but is by no means merely a juridical one.
Like many previous exit! issues, this one does not ‘really’ feature a focal theme, since the topics addressed here overlap and refer to each other anyway. The academic-like ‘division’ into focal and non-focal texts therefore seems to make little sense to us.
In another contribution to the series of articles “Alternatives to Capitalism - In Check,”10 Thomas Meyer focuses on “ecosocialism.” In the wake of the climate catastrophe and the continued destruction of the environment by the capitalist way of life and production, this topic is receiving increased attention. According to its claim, ecosocialism is a ‘linkage’ of ecology and Marxian theory. Depending on the school of thought within ecosocialism, Marx & Engels are found to have varying degrees of ecological thinking. Meyer therefore outlines the ‘ecological discourse’ as found in the work of Marx & Engels and how this is assessed by different ecosocialists. Central to this is the process of human metabolism with nature and how this is shaped by the capitalist valorization process and thus prepared for capital. Here it becomes clear that the “contradiction between substance and form” (Ortlieb) is not only evident in the world of commodities, but also in the process of metabolism with nature. Additionally, Meyer addresses theoretical deficits of the ecosocialists. These range from a truncated understanding of the crisis and of the state to views that can clearly be classified as reactionary or petty-bourgeois.
The article “On Crash Prophets, Preppers and Crisis Profiteers - Right-Wing Ideology in the Crisis” by Tomasz Konicz endeavors to outline the most important elements of right-wing crisis ideology and practice in recent years - from the collapse of the transatlantic real estate bubble to the refugee crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic. Starting with the instrumental reception of Marxian crisis theory and value critique by the thought leaders of the New Right, individual movements, narratives, and ideologies are examined in their interaction with respective bouts of crisis: From the right-wing extremist and putschist rope teams in the state apparatus to the so-called prepper movement, the reactionary and structurally anti-Semitic interpretation of crisis events by right-wing authors, and the unmanageable differentiation of madness in the wake of the lateral thinking protests. Finally, the irrational function of right-wing ideology, which is fully absorbed in the social and ecological self-destructive tendencies that capital evidently executes in its lethal crisis, is pointed out.
Kim Posster devotes his contribution “Masculinity is the Crisis?! - On the History and Relationship of the Latent and Manifest Crisis of the Bourgeois Subject and its Social (Gender) Nature,” to aspects of the history of ‘masculinity.’ The focus is on the ‘masculinity’ that must always be produced anew in the commodity-producing patriarchy, without this ever being able to achieve ‘stability’ out of itself: ‘True masculinity’ cannot simply be. It either ‘doesn’t really exist yet’ or ‘almost doesn’t exist anymore.’ It is always in danger of being merely a remnant of the past. Never able to prevent itself from fading into the future. That masculinity is in crisis is therefore a diagnosis that seems to apply at all times and is usually put forward as an argument for patriarchal resovereignization. More critical minds counter: ‘Masculinity is the crisis!’ and point to the fundamentally precarious constitution of masculinity and the underlying fear of weakness and decay. But as correct as it is to reject the apology of the mythical-eternal gender nature, which wants to change everything so that it will finally become the way it has always been, it is equally wrong to ignore the history that is suspended in it. Thus, instead of merely unraveling the eternal presence of gender deconstructivistically and varying it in colorful 'diversity', as queer feminism does, it is necessary to trace the gendered compulsion of repetition of bourgeois society materialistically through its historical upheavals. For only a history of the mythical eternity of gender, that is, a consideration of the inner history of social (gender) nature, is able to elucidate the relationship between latent and manifest crisis of gender in general and masculinity in particular. In this context, masculinity can be developed as a ‘natural’ category of the value relation and its gendered dissociation, which in the historical unfolding of the moving contradiction, i.e., of capital, always both decays and must be renewed at the respective historical stage. How this decay is currently negotiated by men and the barbaric way especially völkisch and Islamist ideologies strive for a renewal, thereby reveals how the crisis manifests itself today, after the ‘end of history,’ and which regressive potentials it releases.
The article “Narcissus or Orpheus? Remarks on Freud, Fromm, Marcuse and Lasch” by Anselm Jappe is a contribution to the relationship between Freudian psychoanalysis and radical social criticism. In particular, it traces the discussion of Freud that Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Norman Brown, Herbert Marcuse, Christopher Lasch, and others conducted for half a century, in which each argued in the name of social emancipation and critique of capitalism, accusing their opponents of remaining unintentionally within the framework of the society they sought to overcome. The concepts of ‘narcissism’ and the ‘death drive’ play a special role in this. Adorno’s and Marcuse’s attacks on Fromm seem paradoxical, since they seem to defend the ‘conservative’ Freud: According to them, the latter recognized the impossibility of a harmony of drive structure and capitalist society. Christopher Lasch, in his work The Culture of Narcissism (1979), argues that the classical Oedipal family structure, attacked by the ‘Freudian left,’ contains the possibility of developing an autonomous ego, while narcissism, which is predominant today, is in full agreement with consumer capitalism. It entails a constant oscillation between feelings of powerlessness and omnipotence, which is expressed, among other things, in the constant development of technologies. But what is also missing in Lasch’s work is an examination of the historical causes of the rise of narcissism and a thematization of the isomorphism of narcissism and value: both are based on an emptying of the world and its reduction to a single (pseudo)substance: in the case of value, abstract labor; in the case of narcissism, the relationship- and worldless ego.
With the commentary: “Exit! - Now Tell Me, What Do You Think About Religion? - A Clarification” Roswitha Scholz deals with the ‘Gretchen question’ at exit! This seems as meaningful as it is necessary, since materialism and atheism (according to Marxist-Leninist tradition) are not infrequently read in critical circles as synonymous with social criticism. This is to contradict the view that theological thinking is reactionary per se.11
The catastrophes associated with the crisis processes are obviously not enough to raise the question of God and suffering in theology. This required the Coronavirus. In the article “Mr. Kant, Have Mercy On Me! - God On Trial in The Corona Crisis” Herbert Böttcher deals with theological interpretations of the Coronavirus pandemic as well as its affirmative-ethical ‘overcoming.’ In addition, the so-called theodicy question was taken up by the theologian Markus Striet. Here, once again, the misery of a theology that affirmatively ties to the Enlightenment and its pathos of freedom becomes apparent. It is not by chance that Kant’s practical reason is its central point of reference. In moral action, the subject encounters the unconditional claim to act morally. It arises from reason, which is autonomous vis-à-vis nature and causal chains of action. Such unconditionality of moral obligation is connected with the freedom to choose, with the freedom of the will. Ought and freedom are founded ‘beyond’ contentual, temporal-historical determinations.
For theologians, ‘practical reason’ is attractive, since God, banished from pure metaphysical reason, is used as a postulate of moral action. Without him, all ethics would collapse, since it would lack a judging authority that rewards good action and sanctions evil action. Only in this way can morality and happiness come together and God at least find grace as a ‘stopgap’ before Kant’s judgment seat.
Theologians sense the chance to be able to speak at the ‘height of time,’ but talk past what would be ‘at the time’: the categorical critique of capitalism and its crisis relations, which plunge more and more people into suffering and death. Coronavirus exacerbates this. This hardly comes into view of an ethics oriented to Kant as well as of a theology that follows on from it. Their misery consists in the foundation of thinking in pure forms. Thereby the conditions to be criticized are presupposed as affirmed ‘normality.’ Theology remains with the ‘task’ that is assigned to it: helping to cope with existence in connection with the world as it is. The alternative to this would be a theology critical of society, in which the reference to critical social theory is inherent.
Robert Kurz’s essay “The Intelligentsia After The Class Struggle - From The Deconceptualization To The Deacademization Of Theory” from the early 1990s is republished,12 supplemented by an afterword by Roswitha Scholz.
Finally, Andreas Urban and F. Alexander von Uhnrast deal with the book Das Geld - Was es ist, das uns beherrscht by Eske Bockelmann (Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2020) in a detailed review essay.
Also this year we ask all exit! -interested parties for donations to support our ‘theoretical practice.’ It would make sense for our readers, if they have not already done so, to subscribe to exit! in order to contribute to the material security of this journal. Theoretical reflection is in bad shape in the present times. The Coronavirus pandemic has by no means changed this for the better - on the contrary! But resignation and defeatism are not an option. Therefore, we sincerely hope for support in order to contribute to holding a mirror up to this crazy society.
Last but not least, we would like to point out some publications. The following have been newly published: Der Kollaps der Modernisierung - Vom Zusammenbruch des Kasernensozialismus zur Krise der Weltökonomie (The Collapse of Modernization - From the Collapse of Barracks Socialism to the Crisis of the World Economy, Edition Tiamat) and Weltordnungskrieg - Das Ende der Souveränität und die Wandlungen des Imperialismus im Zeitalter der Globalisierung (World Order War - The End of Sovereignty and the Transformation of Imperialism in the Age of Globalization, zu Klampen). Furthermore, several works by Robert Kurz (Collapse of Modernization, Bloody Reason as well as the essay Klassenkampffetisch written with Ernst Lohoff13) have been published in French translation by Crise & Critique: L’effondrement de la modernisation - De l’écroulement du socialisme de caserne à la crise du marché mondial, Raison sanglante - Essais pour une critique émancipatrice de la modernité capitaliste et les Lumières bourgeoises, and Le Fétiche de la lutte des classes - Thèses pour une démythologisation du marxisme. Also by Fábio Pitta: Le Brésil dans la crise du capital au XXIe siècle (in German in: exit! No. 18, first publication in Portuguese online: obeco.planetaclix.pt).
In Spanish, an anthology with texts by Roswitha Scholz has been published: Capital y patriarcado - La escisión del valor, edited by Clara Navarro Ruiz14 (Ediciones Mimesis, Santiago de Chile); furthermore, essays by Thomas Meyer “‘Aspects of the New Right-Wing Radicalism’ and Totalitarian Democracy” in Greek in Πανοπτικόν No. 27 (panopticon.gr) and by Herbert Böttcher: “Emancipation through Liberation of Labor from Capital? - Kritik der positiven Bewertung der Arbeit in theologischem Denken” in: Theologie und Glaube No. 1/2021 and “Kapitalismus - Religion - Kirche - Theologie” in: Füssel, Kuno & Ramminger, Michael (eds.), Kapitalismus: Kult einer tödlichen Verschuldung - Walter Benjamins prophetisches Erbe, Münster 2021. We would also like to point out the blog Exit in English (https://exitinenglish.wordpress.com/), on which numerous texts translated are available (among others by Robert Kurz, Roswitha Scholz, Tomasz Konicz).
Sandrine Aumercier, in her recently published book Le mur énergétique du capital (The energy wall of capital), criticizes the notion of the ‘development of productive forces.’ In it, the author debunks a modern metaphysics of progress that has been parroted by liberals and neoliberals as well as by all traditional Marxist thought. Remnants of this thinking are still present even among some authors of value critique, insofar as they also rely on a reappropriation of recent inventions (such as so-called ‘renewable energies’ or the 3D printer) without criticizing the capitalist conditions of production and state, economic, social infrastructures that presuppose these innovations in the first place. The morality of energetic efficiency, scarcity, optimization, and sobriety is precisely part of this subject form, which is modeled after the ideal of limitless growth. In her book, Aumercier returns to Marx’s analysis of the organic composition of capital to show, in particular, the close relationship between increasingly unbridled technological development and industrial capitalism, which consists in the substitution of living labor for dead labor in pursuit of an ever more vanishing surplus value. From there, the key question is how dead labor would survive without living labor. The disappearance of living labor is to be understood as the disappearance of total productive labor. The historical dynamics of this substitution illustrate both the impossibility of its decoupling (in the perspective of a post-capitalism) and the specificity of the energy crisis inherent in the development of capitalism. Such an analysis thus shows how inconsistent it is to envisage an abolition of the capitalist categories (labor, money, state, commodity) without at the same time criticizing industrial production, which was only made possible by the constitution of these categories.
Thomas Meyer for the exit! -editorial office in November 2021