Dismantling the Welfare State: A Totally Imperialistic Program Ruthless Criticism

Dismantling the Welfare State:
A totally imperialistic program

[Translation of Freerk Huisken's remarks to a peace conference in Hannover, Germany, August 2004]

The democratic rulers seriously intend the impoverishment of the wage-earning population. The money hardships that the government causes with its reorganization of the welfare state are not unfortunate side effects of a well-intended reform of the social insurance programs. The government does not have to pay tribute to an objective constraint of business; nor is there a mistake in the pursuit of the praise-worthy goal called “labor market reform”; it is neither a short term anti-crisis measure nor the inadvertent collateral damage of a passing situation of financial need: it is intended. The costs of those living on social insurance programs are to be lowered – at the expense of the recipients, of course! The pressure to accept always worse and more poorly paid jobs, which lowers the income of both working and unemployed people equally, is the purpose of the program: labor is to be made cheaper so that capital growth advances.

So it does not help at all to spell out to the ruling state power how badly the reforms hurt the people. That misses the point. As if they cannot seriously want this! They know the effects, want these sacrifices and demand them. Also, well meant suggestions – such as how social programs enable the masses to overcome their ever-present hardships and create jobs – are way off the mark: such suggestions do not take seriously the objective that the government pursues with its impoverishment program. The government makes no secret about the real sacrifices that it expects from its people. It openly orders its people to “radically rethink” their attitudes towards social programs. They should say goodbye to the customary benefits; anything else is considered a “demands mentality” which will no longer apply. The people have to get used to the fact that some things are now only conditional, and others not at all. The ruling powers respond to every complaint, every protest with an unmoved “keep it up! – the reform process is irreversible.” They promise their people only one thing: that they will not be diverted by doubts from their new course.

The government found that the old social system is no longer compatible with the order to promote growth and get the economy going. They discovered that labor is too expensive here; and the expenses for the maintenance of the unemployed, uninsured sick, people on social security or disability are too high. Too high for whom is not the question. Surely not for those who must live as unemployed persons, uninsured patients, or people on social security. The expenses for social assistance are too high under a completely different criterion: they are costs that burden the economy and the treasury. So read the official findings that recommend the reform program: financing the living costs of working people at the previous level is incompatible with the growth of the national economy.

With this critical finding, the politicians tear up the old welfare state. The same state that established this system, found it useful for so many years and reorganized it on new levels now finds it intolerable. In its new view, instead of the social state creating an environment for capitalistic profit making – as has been its task so far – it is now in the way. The measures by which the state maintains the workers, as well as the financial expenditures for it, no longer serve as a policy that aids the free and flexible use of workers by capital. Rather, they are considered as obstacles to the profitable employment of workers. The support that the welfare state sent the poor is now defined as the reason for poverty. “Unemployment compensation” made it possible for people to distance themselves from the need to work; they are not deemed fit like this, but directly the opposite. And the expenses for illness and old age are no longer politically valid as necessary provisions acquired by the working class, but only as annoying rations that burden capital unreasonably. Also labor and bargaining rights are redefined: instead of useful rules for profitable cooperation between capital and labor, they are big restrictions that prevent capital from making growth-stimulating investments.

Following from this self-criticism, the governing politicians come to the razor-sharp conclusion: these “restrictions” must be done away with! With a radical plummeting in social assistance and new freedoms in labor law, it must be ensured that capital views the workers again as a stable national resource toughened up for service. Therefore the price of labor must be freed from all falsifying additives that could prevent business from calculating with it as a profitable cost. In addition, those who are not used for profit making and live in conditions below the new normal wage level just have to help themselves. Thus state funds are not only saved; at the same time, it is guaranteed that the emergencies which accompany every mass layoff become unbeatable “incentives” for those laid-off to accept work at any price.

Where does the determination of the politicians to enact these “reforms” come from? They answer that it is because of the conditions of competition; they have to forge ahead in the imperialistic community of states. In order to win this competition, the government regards it as essential to make the nation's workers into a new sort of expense which helps capital on national soil achieve new world market victories. Thus the nation is to be made an unbeatable offer for all the jobs-investing capitalists in the world. They are to make their fortune here, to employ and thus guarantee that national workers in service to the nation promote its success as a world economic power with new vigor. The other powerful nations likewise risk everything to prepare their land and labor as attractive locations for capitalist business. In this competition, they make use of the benefits and wages of the working populations as their resource. This is to impress the business sense of investors that their financial resources should only go there and then into “jobs” that increase their wealth and guarantee capital growth. In this competition, the nation is to continue at the top, according to the resolution of the political bosses.

The political leaders of the nation present this program in cozy agreement with the nation's bosses. They always see it as if the state, with its social hangers-on, stands in the way of their personal right to make profits. However, this new agreement by no means has its reason in the fact that the politicians have caved in before “business” and actually forgotten their real mission of thoughtfully concerning themselves with the whole people. It is worse: politics has completely its own reasons to subject land and labor so consistently to the cost calculations of capitalist business. The economic power of the state depends on the success of this cost calculation: the national power of taxation on which the value of the nation's currency – thus the credit that the state enjoys internationally – is based on the growth it brings capital in this country. And if the desired growth responds nowadays only to success in the location comparison, then the state sees itself provoked to use all the means within its political power so that capital is enriched as a service to the wealth of the nation. The economic power and, concomitantly, the political power of the nation are based on the economic means that this growth brings in.

In this way, the citizens get to experience what it costs them to be economic resources of a rich and powerful nation in pursuit of world power.