Profession: Capitalist Ruthless Criticism
Translated from Die Jobs der Elite: Eine marxistische Berufsberatung (München: GegenStandpunkt-Verlag, 1987)


Whether doctor or professor, engineer or psychologist – every honorable profession adorns itself with the claim that its profession distinguishes modern society with a badge of its honorability; and it publicly wins its case. That’s why there is always talk about the age of medicine or technology, the century of Freud or science, the education or information society. One only no longer hears about capitalist society and capitalism. Those who are engaged in nothing but the expedient use of capital to increase it do not want to be called capitalists; at best, they are said to have existed in bygone times. The very profession that represents the economic principles that everyone follows is playing a confusing game with its name and having its profession denied.

The fact that, of all things in capitalist society, capitalist and capitalism are placed on the index of language rules as expletives and slanderous is due to the respect – the only respect – still paid to Marx today: He successfully, if also quite unfairly, maligned this profession. That’s why today other names are given for the little division of “entrepreneurs” of all kinds who make a killing and self-confidently believe that this is their own achievement and richly deserved. These names express the profoundly legitimate standing that this well-defined group of people – the “job creators” or collectively: “the business community” – enjoys when pursuing their business interests. Approval of the deeds for which “the economy” is responsible is a foregone conclusion. And this is asserted – explicitly or implicitly – with the argument that almost everything depends on the decisions and successes of this trade with its strangely abstract nature.

If one wants to know what characterizes the social deeds of the aforementioned group of people, it is better not to pursue the categorical imperative related to it, but to focus one’s hopes and aspirations on sparing “the economy” as many problems as possible. Then one will also understand their problems better.

First of all, all well-intentioned attempts to answer the question “Why are they actually ‘the economy’?” with the help of the democratic media and its willingness to provide information have failed. For all its eagerness to report on their pleasures and family escapades, there is simply no character trait, no “human” peculiarity that predestines these men and women above other people to look after the “economy.” They eat and drink, go out, put their children on the swing or in the car, or they report worrying findings about oil, automobile and other crises – all the same things that professors, union organizers, newspapers and regulars at the bar also report. Some have advanced degrees, some don’t, and they can even prove they have hobbies. They don’t even wear top hats, the trademark they are given in certain circles, to their events; at most, one thing stands out from the numerous testimonials about how they live their lives: Money is no object. However, this has very little to do with their “personality.”

Entrepreneurs become prominent personalities because they are also professionally involved with money, and in a way that only has to do with their consumption insofar as they finance their private spending out of the proceeds of their business. This professional handling of money is based on the fact that these citizens own a fortune which they use for the purpose of increasing it. They call it capital, and the fact that they do not spend it on their personal pleasures but invest it has inspired benevolent observers of their activities to equate their business with the arts of abstinence and saving. However, their activity does not consist entirely of acts of omission, but rather of nothing but decisions to participate in market developments.

Industrialists use their assets to buy a factory, i.e. they acquire the means of production and materials, which workers tamper with for a wage so that the company has something to sell. The difference between the proceeds and the capital invested is the profit. It forms the purpose of the entire enterprise because it increases the assets.

Of course, this does not reveal any big secret. Everyone knows that in a free market economy the decision about whether and how something is produced is based on business calculations. Democratically administered humanity is accustomed to goods of all kinds having to prove themselves as business items, their price having to satisfy the need for profit, and this being the condition for ordinary needs being met. At most, public annoyance is evoked by the assertion that the state, by licensing private property, creates a class whose private interest in increasing their wealth becomes the general condition of existence for the rest of the world, which is caught up in serving profit and necessarily fares badly. This state, which also lowers itself to adding up the growth in private assets – which the owners themselves intentionally refrain from doing – and raises its preference for private property to the principle of “economic growth,” which no one is allowed to get in the way of, admits the conflict between capital and labor. Capital resolves this conflict by invoking the legal permission to cultivate property and imposing the necessary measures on everyone as an “objective constraint.” The capitalists use all their ingenuity to make more money out of their money, emphasize time and again that everything depends on the success of the M - M' movement – and at the same time deny that they are anything other than personified capital. “Responsibility,” “initiative,” “performance must be rewarded” and “we create jobs” are meaningless if they translate their right to carry out M - M' into nothing but obligations and restrictions on others. Because their private matter is elevated to the rank of a universally enforced concern, they have the rarely happy class consciousness of being mere servants of their own interests. In this service, they cause everything that occupies the bourgeois mind under the title of “social” and is presented to the class state as “issues,” “evils,” “grievances” and “injustices” to be overcome.

For the “employees,” the relation between wages and performance, which is so crucial for the profit of an industrial enterprise, just becomes a collection of existential problems. The standpoint of wage costs produces the lack of money on the other side, the extension of work times shrinks the free time available for life. The price of consumer goods reduces the usefulness of the payroll because it must guarantee profit. The increase in output per time, which ensures a profitable use of the expensive means of production, is detrimental to health; at the same time, workers become superfluous, and they then scramble on the “labor market” as soon as production is “rationalized.” The poverty generated in this way makes the ordinary income and livelihood worries of wage earners seem like a blessing again, if comparisons of damage are made. In addition, the intensification of work has an effect on the accident statistics which are added to the rate of those who are regularly ill. And every problem that a company has on its balance sheet due to the “market situation” with competition and the economy again ends up the responsibility of the wage earners who, strangely enough, always have to answer for the success of M - M'. But they have no say in the matter, because the balance sheet of their assets is not at issue. There is only one way for them to look after themselves: they have to prove themselves as a means of profit, and that means cheapness, performance and sacrifice. This raises their “standard of living,” which a free market democrat doesn’t know how to appreciate other than through crude comparisons with the past and elsewhere, because here the usability of impoverished humanity does not even require their nutrition. The working class is not disenfranchised by all this. They can even worry about the “environment” when they realize that the ruthless treatment of nature has produced “growth,” but has also turned basic food items into health risks …

It would be unfair to accuse the capitalist industrialists of doing business only at the expense of another class that has no investable assets. They also open up opportunities for services that pay off.

In order to boost the retail market for their products, they cede the task of selling nationwide to others who take their place in researching and taking advantage of the market. Interested in the speed of his turnover, the entrepreneur is happy to be represented in his capacity as a supplier of commodities. Purchasing and selling his products becomes an independent business which is worth investing in. This is why there is a commercial capital that “lives” on the difference between the purchase price and the selling price, i.e. makes a profit because it saves costs for the industrialists. In addition, the competition for market share gives rise to a whole guild of colleagues who are eager to invest and creates a few interesting professions such as sales representatives and advertising experts who persuade everyone and anyone of the low-cost goods they want to sell. Not to mention the small merchants who increase their modicum of capital through their own and their family’s work. In addition to their economic function, the latter, like craft businesses, have an ideological significance that should not be underestimated: problem-conscious contemporaries and the craftsmen themselves want to say that in them business and work are roughly one and the same thing. In doing so, they only prove that capital below a certain size is not sensible because it does not allow the separation of function and ownership.

This separation is taken for granted by an “industrialist” – he makes investment decisions and signs contracts that his “departments” suggest and prepare for him. His staff includes technical experts and “supervisors” who organize production and utilize it cost-effectively. In this way, capitalists ensure the enrichment of the professional hierarchy in which wage earners compete and are good for proving that the opposition between capital and labor is not (or no longer) important because there is so much in between. As if functions of capital, performed as better-paid wage labor, would override the class relationship!

Because of the continuity of their business, because of their concern for “liquidity” at every point in time when they must buy again, i.e. pay, industrialists are willing to be charged something for the necessary credit. This is why the business of money capitalists, who deal with an interest-bearing trade in debts, is also profitable. Their business item is money, which has a price – one that they pay because it is loaned to them, and one that they charge for loans given. These colleagues only have anything to do with the working class insofar as they capitalize their savings. Otherwise, they limit themselves to employing white-collar workers who are guaranteed to produce nothing and yet receive a salary, which contributes to the refutation of the “labor theory of value” – if you want to see it that way. Once in action, bankers simply look after the capital market. They make sure that every penny of money that is not used to turn M into M' by selling commodities functions as capital, as “money working.” Banks are institutions that take seriously the right of property to its own growth. And if the granting of this right comes into conflict with the actual returns, there is an exchange or devaluation of property, but never a questioning of it. That the investment of capital has nothing to do with the specificity of production, with the nature of the product – the banks certainly do not owe this proof. In trading with “papers” of all kinds, the owning class very obviously emancipates itself from the commitment of its capital to any one branch of business. It compares interest rates with the earnings of a factory, the price of shares with each other and with government bonds and much more – and in the end, it is not only the bank’s assets that are “diversified.”

The good deeds of the capitalists are by no means exhausted by the fact that they can afford to compete with their colleagues on the trade and credit fronts, which ultimately leads to a halfway potent businessman being at home in all departments or banks being involved everywhere. Capitalists not only need workers, but also a lot of state involvement for their business.

This also creates jobs, namely the entire professional world of civil servants: Politicians of all parties stand up for the objective necessities of the growth of the national economy, which they promote internally and externally with all their might and enable to operate freely; teachers take responsibility for selection in education, which supplies the labor market with enough material that is willing to work and entitled to nothing else; science and technology flourish under university tutelage and thus serve the competitive interests of the capitals, which only know how to make a business out of science in the viability phase; ideological mentoring of disadvantaged humanity is always needed – the state cultivates the corresponding spirit in research and teaching. In short: the scale of professions in universities and schools is clearly related to the requirements of capital. The same applies to the medical profession, insurance agents, and other national servants.

The capitalists therefore provide a huge number of jobs, and nobody really knows whether those who hold them belong to capital or the proletariat. While the perception that some characters in bourgeois society are neither-nor is immediately connected by some freedom loving people with the idea that the story about the classes is always too undifferentiated, leftists have for some time been making two mistakes. The first is to attempt a classification where there is nothing to be classified. The second is a confusion of economic roles or situations with the political will of social characters. This has given rise to such absurd debates as the one about productive and unproductive labor, which sometimes makes strict moral judgments about the revolutionary capability of occupational sectors and the petty bourgeois. The participants in these debates are now in office, including the Greens and women, and they have long since confessed their disinterest in a revolution. After all, this is also solid proof that students and their careers belong to the elite and not to a fluctuating intermediate class. The idea that the professions they pursue on behalf of the state and the economy could, with a little good will, become grassroots institutions is just a distorted and particularly idealistic way of cultivating intellectual and professional pride, and has therefore become normalized again.