From freedom to conversion
By Daniela Dahn
Have the courage to use your own mind.
This memorandum calls into question the rotten basic pillars of the bourgeois state. It does so out of respect for bourgeois values. It is not a question of weakening the state, but of giving it greater democratic legitimacy. The idealistic heritage of the American and French revolutions of the 18th century – human rights that strive for freedom and equality and are inalienable – is in danger. Today’s state, this rabbit in a snake, is no longer able to preserve Western values: justice through the rule of law, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, democracy. The already advanced hostile takeover by the clans ruling in secret cannot be stopped if their instruments of power are not defused: the theory and practice of the state as a legal entity, which is arrested by the monarchy and incompatible with popular sovereignty, Roman law using the wrong weights, the undermining monopolisation of private property, representative democracy, which has succumbed to the snake poison of money.
Radical upheavals are to be expected not only at the back of the world, but on our doorstep, in which popular organs will spontaneously form according to historical models. The soviet republic as an alternative will relegate the parties to the second or third place they deserve. That is why the representatives of the parties like to present parliamentary democracy as the legacy of the American and French revolutions. At best, this is undeniably true, considering that revolutions have never ended up with what their creators hoped for at the beginning.
Our reformed folk high school would also be well suited for a lesson on councils. Starting with the early forms – the medieval town councils or the „Eternal Council“, which was formed under Thomas Müntzer in Mulhouse in 1525 to organize a distribution system based on the common good and equality for the short time it was granted. Continuing with the Swiss cantonal system, the agitators from the English revolutions, or the General Council, Cromwell’s General Council of the Army, which in 1647 declared itself to represent the interests of „the free men of the people of England“. Finally, the plan for a council system of „small republics“ developed by Thomas Jefferson in 1824 from the experience of the American Revolution. In his old age, he saw this as the only way to give the people, from whom, according to the Constitution, all power was now to emanate, the means to prove themselves as citizens of a republic. The mentioned councils, from the Paris Commune to the November Revolution, would have to be dealt with in order to finally understand Hannah Arendt’s conclusion:
In place of the rulers, „in whom the people no longer have confidence“, since the representative system has turned into a kind of oligarchy, there are councils as „the great ultimate purpose of the republic itself“. Because councils, which provide democratically legitimized authority at every level of the pyramid, provide the framework within which „everyone can exercise their freedom“. Because „no one is free or happy who has no share in public power“. In this sense, councils, not as an immediate, ultimate solution, but as a possible democratic way out of the party crisis, are worthy of consideration and discussion. The development of the first parallel structures could be started. The participatory budgeting mentioned above is one such step. The leap to a higher quality would be to include the councils in the legislation, to finally put it into their hands.
Self-empowerment as legislator means taking the fate of the state into one’s own hands as sovereign. The art will be to entrust the experts with the development of a law which, on the one hand, precisely defines the restriction of property by humanitarian, ecological and cultural tasks to which it commits. And which, on the other hand, beyond these limitations, must give the producing or trading owner reliable guarantees that he „uses his cause“. Property is not a natural right. The guarantee of ownership must find its limit where it leads to abnormal wealth at the expense of others. Below this limit, which is to be determined by law, the small and medium-sized business sector should be protected, as, of course, should the personally used property of all righteous people. Prosperity for all would have been possible for a long time.
The need to realize the dream of a better life together through an artistic right is a primal longing of all social utopias. Alongside Plato’s „Politeia“ and Jambulo’s „Island of the Sun“, the ancient Aristophanes is still bold dreams of the future: „For want, no man will ever again perish, for everything is the property of all. With his „Utopia“ once the voice of the Renaissance, Thomas Morus today sounds like a clairvoyant blogger: „Where there is still private property, where all people measure all values by the yardstick of money, it will hardly ever be possible to pursue a just and happy policy… When I look at all our states, which are now somewhere in bloom, I find nothing but a conspiracy of the rich who abuse the name and legal title of the state to their own advantage.
That’s what it is: We have a state created for abuse by the rich. As the owner, this state is constantly caught in a conflict of roles. It is considered antiquated to interfere in the operational, private management. With the consequence that it is irrelevant for the employees whether they work in a state enterprise or not. In the past, the state as shareholder, with its blocking minority on the supervisory board, was still considered a certain protection against hostile takeovers. The state’s publicly dedicated private property was more exposed to a legitimation pressure oriented towards the common good. But under the European Union’s privatisation mania, this too is becoming less and less reliable. Indeed, the state is increasingly being transformed into an apparatus for protecting systemically important private property at the expense of the general public.
The iron principle of profit maximisation is preventing reason from doing so. If, for example, trade unionists on supervisory boards press for ecological and health reasons to change harmful industrial processes, they press for returns with this investment demand. This does not escape the banks. They lower the ranking and thus make loans for this company more expensive. In other words, sensible proposals set in motion a mechanism which penalises, which puts jobs and possibly the whole company at risk. Which is why the wage earners on supervisory boards remain silent instead of exercising their supervisory function.
This irrational mechanism cannot be remedied by repairs on the sidelines. What is free is whoever is able to reverse the functional logic that has been recognised as incorrect. This reversal inevitably leads to the separation of property and state. The only protection against hostile takeover is constitutionally protected common property. Only those who cannot be bought up are not at the mercy of the ruinous compulsion to maximize profits. The common property owner, however, must not be protected from the rights of social disposal, which must be qualified in a permanent learning by doing process. Free from hostile takeover, not free from friendly participation – within this framework, a democratic public economy is conceivable.
So we are long overdue for the combative announcement: gold to the huts, grey to the palaces. Gold for kindergartens, adult education centres, universities, libraries, houses of culture, including hospitals, public kitchens, guest houses (homes for asylum seekers). Grey the international corporations of big industry, armaments, energy and finance, even those of the state.
We are the state – this is a claim and a condition for acceptance. This „we“ is a division of labour, a responsibility, a delegation of tasks. What cannot be delegated is knowledge. An empire only becomes a citizens‘ paradise when the knowledge of good and evil is not a knowledge of domination, when the divine prohibition of thinking is lifted. This is not a sin that distrusts rule, but a virtue that can change fates for the better. We must all know exactly who has what power, why, and who controls it. The premises for insight and morality must be socialized, the conclusions remain individual. Only then will the call: We are the people, we are the people, be able to assert its emancipatory power. Sovereign is who decides on good and evil.
With the beginning of the stoic utopia in 300 B.C., a „programme of world citizenship“, i.e. the „unity of the human race“, appeared for the first time. This too was only conceivable with common property. The Stoic Clanthes spoke of the „common hearth of the world“ over which „the International of all rational beings“ ruled. Of the commonwealth of a cosmic city, to which each individual state belongs as a decorative house. The creation of a global sovereign oriented towards humanity will one day, hopefully in the foreseeable future, be described as a revolutionary creation story of globalization. John Lennon’s „Power to the People“ would be its congenial anthem. The seventh day of creation is yet to come. With it the freely interpretable utopia of Augustine: „Dies septimus nos ipsi erimus. The seventh day will be ourselves.“
Time is running out. Because nature is pressing and the unnaturally impoverished. Let’s make ourselves at home in the European district, as a dress rehearsal for the global: through round tables and finally the furniture of a constitution adopted by the sovereign. Let us dream of houses of the international community, whose doors are wide open and give us confidence: Here I am human, here I want to be.
Daniela Dahn, born in Berlin, studied journalism in Leipzig and was a television journalist. She quit in 1981 and has been working as a freelance writer and journalist ever since. She was a founding member of the „Democratic Awakening“ and has had several guest lectureships in the USA and Great Britain. She has been awarded the Fontane Prize, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize and the Ludwig Börne Prize, among others.
Source: Daniela Dahn: Wir sind der Staat! Warum Volk sein nicht genügt.
Rowohlt, 3rd edition 2017, page 169 – 175