Alternative living: enthusiastic renunciation Ruthless Criticism

[Translated from MSZ January 1979]

Alternative living:

Enthusiastic renunciation – with a difference

If we were to make a caricature of the activities that characterize this group’s lifestyle, the following details would have to be included: organic gardening, recycling, natural food, simple clothing, bicycling to work, family values, meditation or other inner processes.” (I, 22)

“Alternatives,” a “journal of alternative technology, decentralization, and ecology,” is available “for one organic apple and a free-range egg, or DM 1,00.” And this isn’t the only best-seller to offer alternative payment methods (a small selection of other titles: “Grassroots Revolution,” “Here and Now,” “Something Happening”). A whole series of paperbacks which calculate solely with hard currency are devoted to “alternatives”; magazines (not just leftist ones) and even television shows are suspiciously often concerned with “alternative living.”

Someone who adds the title “alternative living” to what they do announces with this name a program which can be defined by the following:

1. he wants to practice something; he does not spend too much time on theoretical explanations for his activity, but rather is suspicious of that. And he wants to have an effect through propaganda of the deed,

2. he wants to live differently than before, thereby taking a stand against the existing social conditions and calling his practice “the daily revolution,”

3. he wants, however, to begin the revolution with himself and to live differently here and now; he looks for “possibilities of alternative living in our everyday life,” thus wants to do the same as before in a different way (by which, incidentally, he also blames himself for not having “lived” in an alternative way before now),

4. finally, he doesn’t have any principle for the new way of living, except that it is supposed to be different; no wonder that every possible thing fits under the abstraction “alternative” and therefore rejects any criticism of specific alternatives.

Admittedly, the range of unlimited “possibilities” when pursuing public participation in alternative activities is rather limited: alternativists enjoy public interest especially when they profess “simplicity as a life principle.” And they prefer commitment to this alternative. Their slogan, “live differently – survive,” which welcomes the “limits to growth as a chance for liberation,” reveals the basis of the hype in which they bask: It is the celebration of voluntary restrictions, which ensures that they and their model forms of coping gain some hearing in times of crisis.

Alternative rural living

“It is not enough to articulate formal protests against industry or to point with moral outrage at the profitable poisoning of the people. You have to start producing food yourself and in a different way.” (III, 31)

“In household terms, this means replacing the most harmful of all technical inventions, the flush toilet, with a compost lavatory. This reduces private water consumption, provides fertilizer for agricultural purposes, and prevents the contamination of our water system.” (I, 100)

Alternativists are practical people who, in their “protest against industry,” don’t let themselves be hindered by theoretical refections on what the opponent is all about and how best to fight it. Their practice does not consist of attacking machines or seeking to conserve nature in the industrial centers; after all, they want to “live the alternative,” that is, they do not want to take on the institutions that “poison” life, but which put some constraints on their fanciful counter-life. Since, to a large extent, these institutions have organized the external environment according to their needs, the alternativists retreat from places where capital exploits man and nature, go to the countryside, or rent abandoned workshops, in short, go to places where it is no longer worthwhile to produce economically.

Since the demonstrative retreat from a corrupt civilization also of course includes renouncing its technical means, they have taken on some original, self-imposed hardships in their ventures:

“They cultivate the land like farmers did 500 years ago. Instead of tractors and mowers, they work by hand.”

This is how the magazine “Companions” reports on the Dutch project “The Little Earth.” The Dutch state took a certain liking to it because of its experiments with wind and solar energy and this resulted in an “autonomous house” and the hiring of some people from the “Little Earth.” In addition, they must sell their products, and “the Little Earth remains stable in such a way that there are neither profits nor losses.” It is much tougher for the “Alpists” in the Bernese Highlands:

“On the practical side, we can still use some people this summer/autumn. Since the financial situation is getting more and more strained, we are even putting out the idea that the better off volunteers, despite their help, contribute a bit more to our livelihood … which brings us to a financial appeal for donations.” (III, 32)

This is the alternative! A hungry peasant in the Alps offers a snack to anyone who helps him out, but one has to bring it to the Alps oneself. The alternativists are dependent on the support of people who take upon themselves the constraints of bourgeois life, which they want to be the alternative to.

The alternative life, which does not want to face the fact that it obeys normal, different laws, can hardly avoid points of contact with this life. If one doesn’t completely change over to self-sufficiency thanks to the work of one’s own hands, which comes with some challenges, one just thinks of the production of the all-terrain footwear that the Alpist and other nature boys must bring themselves to, insofar as they get involved with the normal rules of the game, so that they at least produce salable items. But their crazy attack on the discomforts of modern life, which declares industry instead of capital to be the cause of all evil, forbids them from using its – equally disreputable – means and forces them into the most varied forms of original, laborious craftsmanship. Those who manage, without begging, to manufacture products in a pretentious medieval way (occasionally, of course, the use of a not-so-unnatural electric motor is permissible) for which they have discovered a gap in the market, work from early to late. So the city dweller gets for his money – earned with less alternative than very bourgeois activities – a lot of wood carvings, woven fabrics, salad without artificial fertilizers, etc., along with practical advice about how he too can be alternative in his life vegetating in the urban desert.

Most supporters of this movement are wisely wary of drawing the same conclusions as their colleagues who escape the city. The comparison of their life, which takes place in the midst of civilization and also enjoys its advantages, with the self-chosen bleakness of a farming community, including its self-created tribulations, usually shows the alternatives to be not so alternative.

Alternative living in civilization

In fact, for all the alternative rhapsodies, a large part of the movement makes a fairly realistic comparison between the securities, possible career opportunities (after all, many are from the student youth), and the amenities that a middle and upper echelon bourgeois career can nevertheless guarantee, and what dropping out of a bourgeois existence brings in terms of hardships and risks. Being intrigued by summer excursions to rural communities and weekend small-scale farming is one thing – abandoning the benefits promised by assimilation into professional life is another. And even if its only for a few years – fear of losing connections in school or career to the prosperity that is potentially attainable surely makes a moderate alternative life seem advisable to the majority. Even city dwellers can be quite alternative in their choice of housing, food, and clothing, through all sorts of supplementary activities. Suggestions about

“How to settle down in urban areas so that city life would still be acceptable” (III, 11)

are not lacking:

“I very much encourage the cultivation of garden areas on ground floor apartments...”

You can wipe out the furniture industry if you make your own furniture (autonomy!):

“You can even make a lot of things for the apartment on the kitchen table out of box wood (you can even buy a board or a small basket).”

Oppose the textile industry by mending your pants until they are only good for making rags:

“Experience has shown that people who walk around in pants like this go around a lot easier than always dressing like a Virginia Slims advertisement.”

Break the frenzy of consumerism by pursuing only natural needs:

”You can make your own kefir and even cottage cheese, which is healthier than hard cheese, maybe plant your own garden, naturally fertilized by the smog of the big city. On garbage dumps you find a lot of useful things from the throw-away society.”

One can, however, also earn a living in the cities in a liberated way by carrying out completely normal gainful activities, just alternative ones. These make themselves known by the fact that one doesn’t have a supervisor, but instead joins together with friends or family in collectives, or takes up occupations mainly of a handicraft nature where one can busily engage in an anti-industrial connection to nature through arts and crafts and which don’t require expensive start-up capital. Cities with an extensive left-wing subculture have therefore recently begun to enjoy a number of alternative small and micro businesses, ranging from printing shops and car repair workshops to pottery and junk shops to alternative bakeries with guarantees of unadulterated, coarse-ground bread. There are good reasons that normal business people neglect these types of enterprises, because competition with industry means that these occupations can only be profitably run with an enormous use of labor power, which also sets certain limits on their alternative practice. The toil that would be necessary for a reasonably satisfactory economic result is therefore hardly in line with the notions of non-alienated work and self-realization. Cooperatives and collectives are therefore bitterly in need of their alternative solidarity because of the constant dispute about who contributes too little to the common basis of existence and why. The same goes for the left-wing scene, which must be prepared to accept products or services that, as symbols of a better life, are hardly competitive in terms of quality or price. One either has the ideologically affiliated customer base, the alternativists, pay a lot more or accepts shortcomings in quality, such as the case of the alternative Berlin car rental company whose cars, although beating its competitors in terms of price, often break down on their drivers.

So the alternativists sometimes succeed in keeping their heads above water by more or less openly having their sympathizers financially support them, aided by the moral pressure of practitioners’ superiority over those who merely theorize about overcoming bourgeois life. However, quite contrary to the boastful posturing of an inexorable revolutionization of bourgeois existence, these specimens live parasitically off the good will of those who do not abandon it, and therefore have the necessary means to pay and also a willingness to pay because of their bad conscience.

With their contributed solidarity, the non-practitioners buy themselves membership in the alternative community, which for the vast majority of the movement is the sole and also completely sufficient element of an alternative existence. The insanity of wanting to live here and now by bypassing the bourgeois rules of the game without overruling them, which as an alternative gainful activity must be paid for with some inconvenience and effort, finds its adequate form as pure leisure activity. To be by themselves in their own pubs, to be different there than the others, and therefore able to be so very communal and unalienated, to argue at the alternative regulars’ table, to chat about the elements and models of the liberated life, to raise oneself above the bourgeois normal people vegetating in consumerism and to settle down with this self-consciousness quite comfortably within the framework of a bourgeois professional life – this is the alternative life as it has become primarily established in the catchment areas of left-wing universities. In offering a pleasant group leisure life, the left-wing scene is no longer inferior in any way to the fraternities.

Above the clouds, the alternatives are even more limitless ...

Wanting to escape the constraints of bourgeois life by starting with oneself and simply “living differently” means nothing other than settling in a different way into the accepted constraints, whereby these constraints are suddenly twisted into positive conditions of a better life, which the person who lives in this way increases by voluntarily creating new constraints, such as time-consuming extra work. Alternative proposals which aim at revolutionizing everyday life usually have an extraordinarily impractical character: since the organization of the attacked everyday life is thoroughly defined by the expediency of coping with working life and limited income, the revolutionary inversion of this expediency means, plain and simple, nothing but additional efforts that are no longer in proportion to the gains in pleasure allegedly associated with them. This explains why it usually remains on the level of advice, and why the whole alternative life takes place mainly as one propagandized by a thousand tips.

“The ideas for a non-industrial way of life, which we put to paper here, should be understood in the sense of a suggestion for further development and not as plans meant literally.” (III, 31)

An alternativist has no duty to get to the bottom of what exists, it is quite enough to imagine everything as different some day. That’s why fantasy knows no bounds and every insanity is well received, the unrealistic is even appreciated because it points to the utopian:

“Surreptitiously abolishing the car ...”

“After another 6 years, the time will come. The last private car drivers will drive alongside motorcyclists, bicycles or carts, or slow trucks.” (III, 31)

The post-war period – a model for alternative living?

“Our rooms are often overheated. Savings can be had by setting the heating to a lower temperature and wearing warmer clothing. You may also notice that we stay more active at cooler temperatures, even when thinking.” (I, 170)

“The easiest way to save energy is to turn off the lights when not using them.” (I, 171)

Insofar as alternative life-improvement suggestions want to teach the art of making a virtue out of necessity, they have a fatal resemblance to certain state-run moral campaigns.

The pathetic and illusory autarchic efforts of rural communities and self-sufficient collectives –

“The complete absence of natural self-sufficiency (?) in urbanized centers, the total dependence on the food supply can quickly turn from latent to open famine under crisis conditions. The ridiculed rural commune movement, attempts at self-sufficiency technology, etc., take on a fundamentally different meaning from such a perspective.” (II, 22) –

have to essentially serve the overwhelming majority of society, which can’t escape city life, as an example: how to make wealth out of poverty by regaining “flexibilities and skills.” And it is no coincidence that the exemplary proposals are reminiscent of the war and post-war period. Who would have thought that he was living an alternative at that time, full of responsibility towards his community, bearing in mind a general scarcity? The true happiness of such an existence becomes all the clearer in the confrontation with the degeneracies of the affluent society:

“Nor must we forget that the forty year old fat man has been gaining his fat for over 20 years. If he had ridden a bicycle during that time, he would have been able to burn the 21.6 kilograms of fat that disfigures him, instead of the 1,440 liters of petrol he paid for.” (I, 173)

The fact that someone, because of his environment, which forces him to spend precious hours of his free time in a different way than bicycling to and from the assembly line, has reasons not to follow the alternative advice, leaves the everyday revolutionary completely cold – not unlike the state’s trim-and-fitness propagandists. He is of the opinion that someone who continues to refuse the “technical improvement of walking” must not only be fat, but stupid:

“The folly of car transportation isn’t seen by the habitual driver. His space-time relationship is industrially distorted. He can only imagine himself in the role of a passenger. He has been conditioned by the illusion that freedom of movement depends on being carried around. As a result, he does not demand more freedom as a person, but better service as a driving customer.” (I/172)

An alternativist can apparently come up with no madness too big in order to blame people for using technical conveniences – and even indict them as enemies of freedom.

Insofar as the alternativists mainly have an impact by inventing such moralistic-moronic suggestions as constantly switching the lights on and off, using bath water as collectively as possible, saving on heating thanks to wool underwear and keeping themselves physically fit through countless energy saving activities, they are tolerated by the bourgeois public – even if it sneers at them from time to time. The fact that the masses do not respond to their far-reaching, anti-growth revolutionizations, at least to their calls for a general renunciation of canned food, refrigerators, and cars, because they are not able, since they depend on a somewhat efficient way of life, guarantees the health food store revolutionaries the public reputation of a harmlessly quaint faction of the left. Membership in such associations does not lead to a career ban, at best it means not being taken seriously. Only in places where the alternativists begin to annoy the state, where they proceed to defend nature against the construction of nuclear power plants, does it confront them with all due harshness. If they demand money for their projects or show up as rivals on a list of candidates to “mis-use” votes used elsewhere, they are coolly shaken off or vilified as do-gooders suspected of subversion. And when the democratic state shows them their limits, it can stand up as an advocate of the common people’s already modest material claims. Holger Börner [SPD politician who was Minsister of transport in early to mid 1970s], for example, was able to appear in the last Hessian state election campaign against the Green List with a series of advertisements in which he sought votes by building new highways in “structurally deprived areas” which are supposed to create new jobs and a better standard of living there. So the state, when it matters, still always forces the left-wing alternativists into a reactionary corner.

Human warmth instead of wasted energy

“In our opinion, it is almost impossible to win people over to a materially simple way of life if we can’t convince them of the need to explore their inner potential.” (I, 15)

“If people are not given access to consumer goods in return for their work, compensation must be made in a non-material way. Social needs must be satisfied from the satisfaction that people experience by fulfilling their tasks as members of a real family or community.” (I, 80)

As the ideology of essentially immaterial happiness, however, the “alternative life” has found a respected place. Then material restrictions open the broad field of moral agitation, one which no longer has to invent alternatives, but knows how to enrich them with significance: that wealth not only doesn’t always, but never, makes one happy. And this starts with fresh food:

“The kitchen refrigerator keeps food fresh, but does not spare the question of human warmth” (The colder the beer, the colder one’s fellow man) ... “We have come a long way, but at most we are satisfied, rarely happy.” (I/5)

Anyone who thinks they would be “happy and content” is highly mistaken! By so casually saying that there is an opposition between material well-being and happiness, the alternativist makes clear that his frustrated statement that people do not believe in “simplicity as a life principle” because they have to practice it, only helps him talk them into believing that their unhappy situation is solely due to their unwillingness to cheerfully take on a demand for simplicity. So for a propagandist of “alternative” morality, the misery of an unemployed person’s family does not consist in being out of money – quite the opposite:

“Their poverty does not begin with the lay-off ... Their poverty is in their whole borrowed identity which had to be drawn from the amount of possessions, whereby the quality of being human falls by the wayside. The consumer’s identity only comes at the cost of losing solidarity, trust, friendliness and reliability, and the ability to communicate.” (II, 121)

Wherever there is a consensus that the “consumption of things” prevents people from fulfilling their “fundamental need to mean something to others,” their “desire to be of infinite value (!) in relationships,” then of course priests are also in great demand:

“Many people in these groups very consciously give up permanent employment and full wages in order to be free to do other things that seem important to them or the group. A new understanding arises of what the Christian tradition in a different time lived out under the heading of poverty, that the kingdom of God begins with the poor, and that wealth represents an elementary obstacle to achieving a humanly fulfilled life.” (II, 161)

Social networks connected by do-it-yourself

When poverty becomes a condition for a fulfilled life, the misery of those dependent on support from the welfare state does not consist in their misery, but in their “disempowerment” because the state has reduced their existential anxiety:

“The danger is that the vast, inscrutable apparatus of the highly interdependent bureaucracies, both public and private, will become increasingly dense, and people will end up trapped in an impenetrable network of social institutions and regulations. In this way, an authoritarian welfare state could emerge from the unstoppable logic of well-meaning bureaucratic ordinances which extend into almost all spheres of human life.” (I, 29)

In order to subvert this well-meaning monstrosity, whose authoritarian character is supposed to consist of its beneficence, by withdrawing their “claims for support,” people have to activate their entire imagination to the effect that they can perform a great service by taking over the functions of the welfare state beyond the state-imposed mutually supportive community of the family:

“People need social networks that will cushion them when their physical or mental capacity is temporarily or permanently reduced for any reason ... The state and the community are such networks, the largest, and at the same time the most impersonal. They pay pensions, scholarships, other social benefits ... The family is another network. But it is nearly undisputed that today’s smaller families are proving increasingly too weak to really cushion people ... The family needs a partial replacement.” (I, 109)

Since our society produces an abundance of failed lives, no limits are set on the activities of community spirit as an alternative to the democratic management of misery. Because real misery does not consist in the destruction of life and limb that this society actually produces, but in the “social segregation” of ruined lives from the “so-called active population,” whereby the former lose their sense of social usefulness –

“But if the social usefulness of work is only an illusion, where do people get the real standards for behavior for helping the community or even responsibility for the global society of the future?” –

the latter as well will have to do without all kinds of useful services which the failed ones would still be able to provide:

“This is where the basic idea of ‘small nets’ comes into sight: they recapture lost, misdirected labor and wasted taxpayer money.” (I, 123)

A perfect model of such “small nets” is the proposal to gather the unemployed and obligate them to work in “reconstruction groups” tasked with

“regenerating neglected land, planting hedges, reforesting forests and cleaning up dumps whose toxic waste threatens groundwater supplies”;

“All the unemployed would have to join this reconstruction force automatically (!), unemployment benefits would be abolished altogether ... In this way the welfare system could be dismantled further.” (I, 104)

It doesn’t just become clear from such unequivocal proposals for managing one’s life in an alternative way why an upstanding alternativist opens himself up to the charge of fascism, these having the

“need for belonging, for active participation in public decision making processes, the need for a structure of meaning and more connectedness” which he himself invokes “up to the point of exhaustion.” (II, 11).

Finally, propagandists for this morality confess to the social virtues of sacrifice and renunciation for the whole which fascism demands of its citizens, which is why they do not miss the opportunity, by means of

“emergencies such as cohabiting POW camps or disaster conditions”

to make their addressees aware of the necessity

“of coping with the pending deprivations and dangers by bonding more closely together and by acts of neighborly love (!) that extend beyond ‘normal times.’” (11/152)

Anyone who, in order to give urgency to his call for self-sacrifice, flirts so openly with the state’s extreme violence has only one problem with this:

“Decrees, regulations, prohibitions are seen as difficult to accept and provoke resistance as long as they are not desired by the population itself.” (II, 151)

The public propaganda of alternative living couldn’t say more clearly what “social responsibility” consists of: by celebrating the voluntary nature of sacrifice, it provides the moral soundtrack to the deprivations that the state forces on its citizens for the good of the nation. This explains why the democratic media has long identified this alternative anywhere people have discovered the opportunity to take their own initiative within the shitty circumstances imposed on them: a TV station is shooting a series on workers’ housing in the Ruhr area where the inhabitants are moving closer together, on self-help initiatives by the unemployed that “take away the shame of telling others they are on welfare,” on spry pensioners volunteering to build playgrounds – without any inter-generational contract. There are also women’s shelters, kindergartens, senior centers, psychiatric wards, and so on.

The welfare state welcomes this relief by using the selfless volunteers. It was once familiar with such idealism only from charities, and the active philanthropy that these citizens display also promotes the credibility of the idea of solidarity which is otherwise deployed as an ideal. But nevertheless, it watches over the activities of its unorthodox helpers with a critical eye: it does not want any meddling in its social nets, for which it forcibly collects from the workers – unemployment, accident, health, old age insurance, etc. – since this at the same time serves to effectively control the people it looks after, who it also has to keep on a tight reign with the allocation of alms that it takes from them. The social undertakings of private initiatives, however, too easily have the tendency that the nannying there tries to evade the normal duties of a bourgeois existence.

Who can afford an alternative life

“In my opinion, some of the most creative and capable intellectuals, artists, and humane capitalists in the United States are among the followers of a simple way of life. Most representatives of this new way of life come from the educated middle classes, so they have enough well educated talent at their disposal.” (I, 18)

“The industrial production of commodities, money and wage labor are not completely replaced, but lose their dominant position when cultural activity as an alternative form of production changes everyday life.” (I, 56)

As far as the quintessence of “alternative living” is concerned – it is supposed to be an existence with a voluntary restriction on material needs for the good of the social whole – a large part of the population currently lives according to such maxims. The voluntary character of this event for such people is, however, highly effectively supplemented by the economic and political constraints that are characteristic of their existence. They therefore rarely come up with the idea of seeing their everyday lives as alternative. Hence those who really voluntarily act as its propagandists – practically or theoretically – are people who have alternatives, and they can use their privileged positions to loudly come up with reactionary state ideals as a revolutionizing of the state as it is. The protagonists of “alternative living” are therefore not just intellectuals in terms of their origin; they have remained completely true to themselves. Those who get tired of practicing this way of life (and most of them just want a taste of rural idylls) soon find themselves, upon returning to bourgeois life, back in positions where they work with their heads because of their qualifications, and most of the movement’s supporters regard the alternative life, on the basis of a thoroughly realistic cost-benefit calculation, as only leisure activity anyway, as an alternative and therefore by definition not petit-bourgeois pub life, in which one supplies, in addition to a rewarding intellectual life, a leftist sociability.

Ultimately, the many theoretical propagandists who sociologically and psychologically proclaim the benefits of “living in a different way” for the state are only taking up the space that is given to them by the bourgeois professional hierarchy anyway. Quite beyond its leftist attitude, the “alternative form of existence” is functionalizable for capitalist society in that it aims at an attitude of willingness to happily put up with constraints:

“... reflect on one's own behavior, one’s own roles;... to see forms and colors in the changing light of the day and to imagine the world when green, red and white are black. This above all: to imagine perceived experiences in a completely different way; fantasy.” (I, 59)

This domain of intelligence: to falsify reality in order to prevent attacks on it, the alternative intelligence wants to impose on the workers at all costs and therefore promises them a fanciful “humanization of the work world,” one which, moreover, also intends to cut into the proletarians’ free time in order to impose additional responsibilities on them for the environment, the district, etc. The alternative intelligence wants to impose the same on the workers. What this kind of self-realization is not about is made unmistakably clear:

“Of course, with this diversification of social forms, no mention has been made of the pleasure principle: fun and insight into necessities, solidarity and responsibility are all part of the same coin. Doing without in a sensible way is just as personality forming as a verified assertiveness towards third parties.” (I, 63)

Preaching insight into the necessity of doing without is the professional basis of the alternative intelligentsia too.

Tunix is nix!

[Translator: this is a pun on the Tunic Congress, a big gathering in Germany in 1978 about “the transition from protest to life-affirming creativity” organized by spontis, hippies, anti-nuke and ecological activists, meant to “express the life-feeling of many students, for work is a synonym for the deprivation of freedom.” It was explicitly anti-Marxist and attended by tens of thousands. It was mostly made up of podium discussions by intellectuals (Foucault and Lyotard were there) and workshops “on self-administered youth centers, psychiatry and anti-psychiatry, alternative press and left wing bookstores, homosexual autonomy theory,” etc., with cultural events such as street theater, music, and underground films. So the title is a pun saying: Tunix is bullshit!]

“Escaping from reality does not change reality. Letting the alternative citizens move doesn’t help. We have to do it with a serious movement of critically committed fellow citizens who say goodbye to the system.” (STERN editor Michael Jürgs [famous German journalist], “Alternatives or the escape from responsibility”)

“Is it any wonder that adolescents flee to gurus and drugs or fall into the irrationality of violence...?” (I, 42)

The ideological usefulness of the alternative morality of renunciation justifies the partial recognition that it gets in the bourgeois public sphere. This now and then leads some people to sense a boom of spontaneity in the small upswing that this functionalized form of spontaneity is currently experiencing, which already says everything about the prospects of success for the kind of politics that is articulated in Tunix meetings. The “great refusal” as a revolutionary perspective, which wants to enjoy the libertinage that the state grants to an intellectual status without the associated restrictions and declares this to be an uprising of subjectivity, must allow itself to be called to account with hidden threats by someone who has made it:

“Precisely its mature citizens say a tired goodbye to the unloved father state and turn themselves around to Mother Earth. They will be missed ... The new German peace movement is more of a danger to the republic than terrorism and environmental pollution. Whoever flees the beginnings of a new fascism instead of resisting is complicit in the disaster that threatens the next born.” (Michael Jürgs)

Even though the overwhelming majority of followers of “alternative living” are completely harmless – they move to remote areas, peacefully but alternatively pursue quite normal gainful activities, or their otherness is exclusively active at the – albeit quite exclusive – regulars’ table, and even though they do not intend to disturb bourgeois life at all, but solely try to avoid it, and for the most part only mentally, without comment – something like this can’t be tolerated here: the dropping out of a part of the young intelligentsia gives rise to the suspicion that they are not willing to take their duties to society and the state seriously. Even if it is only a negligible number, in times when one wants to have the people completely behind one, slacking is out of the question. And it is precisely those who have enjoyed training for leadership positions who should show a greater sense of duty and loyalty to their leaders.

Is the alternative movement an opportunity for the left in Germany?

“The alternative movement is the only possible counter-power to Schmidt/Genscher's politics.” (Jochen Steffen [German SPD politician who became an anti-nuclear activist and later a cabaret performer] on “The Alternative”, in Avanti [socialist magazine] No. 10)

Steffen predicts that “the meek will rule the earth,” even if they will have to “work and fight a lot” before doing so (for which he offers his (party) political experiences). Of course, “alternative living” also arouses the interest of those who have long since claimed to have organized the best of all possible alternatives, even though so far this hasn’t taken place in the world below the 1%. But it is precisely this unfortunate circumstance that causes the diverse groups of the traditional left to see a “progressive perspective” in the latest reactionary fart from the alternative scene in order to capture them as allies for their ranks. And the “Socialist Bureau” has long given the alternativists several “fields of work”: in decidedly uncritical solidarity, it provides whole grain chewers with the appropriate reactionary philosophy for a hubbub that the supporters of this collective movement of critical professional intellectuals would reject as too lowbrow for themselves.

In what condition must “the left” in Germany be if it places its hopes on a movement that fears materialism like the devil fears holy water?


I: Die tägliche Revolution. Möglichkeiten des alternativen Lebens in unserem Alltag. Reihe „fischer alternativ“

II: Anders leben – überleben. Die Grenzen des Wachstums als Chance zur Befreiung

III: Öko-Journal. Ökologie, Alternativen, Bewußtsein, Nr. 4 + 5, Juni/Aug. 78


“Tips for Practicing a Simpler Lifestyle”:

The working group “Appropriate Technology” at Kassel University recommends:

“The production of one’s own compost opens up the possibility of actively integrating oneself into a simple nutrient cycle ... Such humus may also be suitable for a small mushroom cultivation in the cellar. If your own feces are also to be processed into humus, a compost toilet will be set up ... An extension and enrichment of this simple food cycle is meaningful and possible by including a small fish breeding plant. The fish container can consist of a unused refrigerator or a freezer ... It would therefore be possible to combine fish farming with algae production ...” (I, 161 f.)

John Cartwright, secretary of a “Foundation for the Humanization and Integration of Social Sciences,” has the following tips in store:

“It is worth knowing that many raw foods not only taste good but also have a higher nutritional value. -

Candles at dinner are not only romantic, they also save energy.”

“Focus interiors and walls with bright colors to reflect more light and reduce the amount of light needed.”

“Instead of a shower, bathe in pairs, turn off the water when brushing your teeth ... These are things that reduce pressure on our environment.”

“Its much cheaper to buy a bicycle than a car. The social investments for roads, traffic police, etc., are also considerably lower.”

“Food prepared together at home, enriched with love and creativity, is better for body and mind.”

“Those who bake with wholemeal flour and grind their own grains not only have better control over what they eat, but it is also fun! This increases even more when one grinds the flour oneself.”

“If you don’t have a garden, you might be able to help out neighbors, especially older people. Or try to get together with others to make fallow land usable again and get the authorities to support such projects.” (I, 171 ff.)