Is capitalism really socialism for the rich?

Why intellectuals despise capitalism

Intellectuals cling to their inveterate anti-capitalism, including those who enjoy every conceivable advantage of the “system” they are fighting on every day. Why actually this feeling of guilt of the privileged?

200 years after the birth of Karl Marx, 170 years after the publication of his Communist Manifesto, capitalism has established itself worldwide. Even Russia and China, the super novas of the socialist revolutions of the 20th century, have turned to capitalism. The epochal struggle between capitalism and socialism has been decided since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the most recent disaster of a “people's socialist” experiment taking place in Venezuela could be understood as another sign in a long chain of historical evidence: The idea of ​​socialism is still everybody Times failed because of reality.

Marx's prophecy of 1848 that the proletariat would "use its political rule to gradually wrest all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, that is, of the proletariat organized as the ruling class, and to centralize the bulk of the productive forces to multiply as quickly as possible »has always been realized in the form of the dictatorship of a caste of functionaries in which there was neither prosperity nor freedom, neither democracy nor human rights.

Cause of all evil

In spite of all this, capitalism still has few confessing friends. At best one can grumble and confess to a “social market economy” under various restrictions. But "capitalism", although it actually exists in innumerable political mixed forms - from Thailand to Sweden, from Canada to France, from Australia to Poland - is considered to be the cause of all evil in the world.

Capitalism is morally disqualified a priori, an ominous, ultimately doomed system in which profit, self-interest and material greed degenerate into the driving force behind inhuman action.

Above all in intellectual circles, among “cultural workers” and in large parts of the mass media, it is clear: exploitation and oppression, wars, injustice and environmental pollution, climate catastrophe, poverty, crises, diseases, misery, alienation and misfortune - capitalism is to blame for everything; alternatively turbo or finance capitalism, “neocolonialism” and “neoliberalism”, not to be forgotten: globalization.

Anyone who also unleashes, disinhibits, brutal and anti-social in their vocabulary no longer needs any arguments or figures, at best pictures - whether of drowning refugees or slum regions in the so-called Third World. In German television programs for the supposedly thinking class such as “Kulturzeit” (3SAT), “Aspects” (ZDF) and “ttt” (ARD), such keywords are sufficient to arouse the same associations. Capitalism is morally disqualified a priori, an ominous, ultimately doomed system in which profit, self-interest and material greed degenerate into the driving force of inhuman action.

«Capitalism is not the problem, it is the solution» - anyone who publishes a non-fiction book with this title that could easily be used as a party crasher not only in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg must appear almost crazy. Rainer Zitelmann, historian, former publishing director and «Welt» editor, author and real estate investor from Berlin, has just done it. As a historian, he compares socialism and capitalism in reality - not with the Fata Morgana method so popular with intellectuals, in which the imperfect and, of course, criticism-worthy - capitalist - reality inevitably embarrasses itself on the great - somehow socialist-utopian - idea. In truth, the opposite is true.

North and South Korea, GDR and Federal Republic of Germany, Chile and Venezuela: the findings are striking. The same applies to the very different development of Asian and African countries. Pattern: The more capitalist, the more dynamic, the more socialist, the more backward. You don't have to share this rating. But it takes very good arguments, data and facts to attack them.

Clichés and platitudes

Unfortunately, most critics have enough anti-capitalist gut feeling. If you ask more closely, you usually hear clichés and platitudes. A critical-historical discussion seems superfluous, especially the question of a - socialist? - alternative. First, according to the notorious speech since 1968, it emerges “in the course of development” - the “concrete utopia” cannot simply be drawn up on the drawing board; And secondly, it does not play a decisive role: First of all, capitalism must be fought. Because it doesn't go on like this.

An ideal representative of this endlessly recyclable moral indictment is Jean Ziegler. In 2017, in an interview with the “Frankfurter Rundschau”, he predicted that “a final battle was imminent, good versus evil. Armageddon. The planetary class struggle is in the final phase ».

Sarah Wagenknecht, Jakob Augstein, Noam Chomsky, Michael Hardt, Toni Negri, Alain Badiou or Didier Eribon - the bigoted preachers of the apocalypse are omnipresent.

The Swiss man of the world, who maintained good contacts with Libya's tyrant Muammar al-Ghadhafi, still regards Ché Guevara as a role model and justifies the Cuban suppression of free elections: “I am totally in solidarity with everything that has happened in Cuba. Brecht says that a ballot paper does not satisfy a hungry person. First of all, it is about eliminating hunger (...) and eliminating the racist and unequal society and transforming it into a more just, happier and humane society. "

Amazing views of a dictatorship without freedom of the press and freedom of expression, in which this goal has been terribly missed for almost sixty years. But Jean Ziegler, who never wanted to be “in solidarity” with everything that was going on in democratic Switzerland, only speaks out what many European intellectuals think. It is not just the “gauche caviar” in the Parisian lofts who indulge in the comfortable resentment of a clear conscience, it is intellectuals from all faculties who, on talk shows, still take the shortest route from the latest Diesel affair or the last terrorist attack to find the “predatory capitalism” of the West. Sarah Wagenknecht, Jakob Augstein, Noam Chomsky, Michael Hardt, Toni Negri, Alain Badiou or Didier Eribon - the bigoted preachers of the apocalypse are omnipresent.

But why do even those intellectuals cling to their inveterate anti-capitalism who enjoy all the advantages of the opposed "system" every day? A deep-seated feeling of guilt on the part of the privileged may play a role here, the "sobbing of the white man" (Pascal Bruckner): Those who stand up for the oppressed in this way are also allowed to dine in the Zurich Kronenhalle - vice versa. Only a guilty conscience is a good conscience.

"Delusion connection"

Zitelmann points out an underestimated socio-psychological aspect - feelings of superiority and inferiority, envy and arrogance: «The intellectual is unable to understand why the 'mentally inferior' entrepreneur who has read only a fraction of the books and perhaps not even about one completed a degree, in the end earned a lot more money. " You can put it more academically: intellectuals consider the explicit knowledge they have acquired in decades of study to be more important than the implicit empirical knowledge of people who make billions in sales with screws, self-assembled furniture, countless types of yoghurt and printed T-shirts.

In addition, there is the ritual condemnation of "profit thinking" and the "economization of all areas of life". It arises from a quasi-religious contempt for making money, of economic thinking in general, in which one can only recognize superficiality, materialism, vulgarity and potential barbarism. Ultimately, it is about the air sovereignty of metaphysics, the global design - as with Marx, who believed to have discovered the laws of motion of capital. Inevitably, intellectuals are pushed into the role of an avant-garde that shows the people the way, deceived by the “delusion context” (Adorno) about their “real needs”.

Fifty years after “68”, however, there is a problem: it is no longer avant-garde. She is now sitting with Sandra Maischberger and Markus Lanz and is part of the delusion context. The phantom pain is alleviated with large packs of morally-soaked know-it-all.

Reinhard Mohr is a German publicist and wrote, among other things. for “taz”, “FAZ”, “Stern” and “Spiegel”.