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Gruppe Krisis, "Manifesto Against Work" (Part 1)

hydrarchist submits:

Gruppe Krisis

Manifesto Against Labour

1. The rule of dead labour

A corpse rules society - the corpse of labour. All powers around the globe
formed an alliance to defend its rule: the Pope and the World Bank, Tony Blair
and Jörg Haider, trade unions and entrepreneurs, German ecologists and
French socialists. They don't know but one slogan: jobs, jobs, jobs!Whoever still has not forgotten what reflection is all about, will easily realise the implausibility of such an attitude. The society ruled by labour does not experience any temporary crisis; it encounters its absolute limit. In the wake of the micro-electronic revolution, wealth production increasingly became independent from the actual expenditure of human labour power to an extent quite recently only imaginable in science fiction. No one can seriously maintain any longer that this process can be halted or reversed. Selling the commodity labour power in the 21st century is as promising as the sale of stagecoaches has proved to be in the 20th century. However, whoever is not able to sell his or her labour power in this society is considered to be "superfluous" and will be
disposed of on the social waste dump.

Those who do not work (labour) shall not eat! This cynical principle is still in effect; all the more nowadays when it becomes hopelessly obsolete. It is really an absurdity: Never before the society was that much a labour society as it is now when labour itself is made superfluous. On its deathbed labour turns out to be a totalitarian power that does not tolerate any gods besides itself. Seeping through the pores of everyday life into the psyche, labour controls both thought and action. No expense or pain is spared to artificially prolong
the lifespan of the "labour idol". The paranoid cry for jobs justifies
the devastation of natural resources on an intensified scale even if the destructive
effect for humanity was realised a long time ago. The very last obstacles to
the full commercialisation of any social relationship may be cleared away uncritically,
if only there is a chance for a few miserable jobs to be created. "Any
job is better than no job" became a confession of faith, which is exacted
from everybody nowadays.

The more it becomes obvious that the labour society is nearing its end, the
more forcefully this realisation is being repressed in public awareness. The
methods of repression may be different, but can be reduced to a common denominator.
The globally evident fact that labour proves to be a self-destructive end-in-itself
is stubbornly redefined into the individual or collective failure of individuals,
companies, or even entire regions as if the world is under the control of a
universal idée fixe. The objective structural barrier of labour has to
appear as the subjective problem of those who were already ousted.

To some people unemployment is the result of exaggerated demands, low-performance
or missing flexibility, to others unemployment is due to the incompetence, corruption,
or greed of "their" politicians or business executives, let alone
the inclination of such "leaders" to pursue policies of "treachery".
In the end all agree with Roman Herzog, the ex-president of Germany, who said
that "all over the country everybody has to pull together" as if the
problem was about the motivation of, let us say, a football team or a political
sect. Everybody shall keep his or her nose to the grindstone even if the grindstone
got pulverised. The gloomy meta-message of such incentives cannot be misunderstood:
Those who fail in finding favour in the eyes of the "labour idol"
have to take the blame, can be written off and pushed away.

Such a law on how and when to sacrifice humans is valid all over the world.
One country after the other gets broken under the wheel of economic totalitarianism,
thereby giving evidence for the one and only "truth": The country
has violated the so-called "laws of the market economy". The logic
of profitability will punish any country that does not adapt itself to the blind
working of total competition unconditionally and without regard to the consequences.
The great white hope of today is the business rubbish of tomorrow. The raging
economical psychotics won't get shaken in their bizarre worldview, though. Meanwhile,
three quarters of the global population were more or less declared to be social
litter. One capitalist centre after the other is dashed to pieces. After the
breakdown of the developing countries and after the failure of the state capitalist
squad of the global labour society, the East Asian model pupils of market economy
have vanished into limbo. Even in Europe, social panic is spreading. However,
the Don Quichotes in politics and management even more grimly continue to crusade
in the name of the "labour idol".

Everyone must be able to live from his work is the propounded
principle. Hence that one can live is subject to a condition and there is
no right where the qualification can not be fulfilled.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Foundations of Natural Law according to the
Principles of Scientific Theory, 1797

2. The neo-liberal apartheid society

Should the successful sale of the commodity "labour power" become
the exception instead of the rule, a society devoted to the irrational abstraction
of labour is inevitably doomed to develop a tendency for social apartheid. All
factions of the comprehensive all-parties consensus on labour, so to say the
labour-camp, on the quiet accepted this logic long ago and even took over a
strictly supporting role. There is no controversy on whether ever increasing
sections of the population shall be pushed to the margin and shall be excluded
from social participation; there is only controversy on how this social selection
is to be pushed through.

The neo-liberal faction trustfully leaves this dirty social-Darwinist business
to the "invisible hand" of the markets. This conception is utilised
to justify the dismantling of the welfare state, ostracising those who can no
longer keep abreast in the rat race of competition. Only those who belong to
the smirking brotherhood of globalisation winners are awarded the quality of
being a human. It goes without saying that the capitalist end-in-itself may
claim any natural resources of the planet. When they can no longer be profitably
mobilised, they have to lie fallow even if entire populations go hungry.

The police, salvation sects, the Mafia, and charity organisations become responsible
for that annoying human litter. In the USA and most of the central European
countries, more people are imprisoned than in any average military dictatorship.
In Latin America, day after day an ever-larger number of street urchins and
other poor are hunted down by free enterprise death-squads than dissidents were
killed during the worst periods of political repression. There is only one social
function left for the ostracised: to be the warning example. Their fate is meant
to goad on those who still participate in the rat race of fighting for the leftovers.
And even the losers have to be kept in hectic moving so that they don't hit
on the idea to of rebelling against the outrageous impositions they face.

Nevertheless, even at the price of self-annihilation, for most people the brave
new world of the totalitarian market economy will only provide for a live in
shadow as shadow-humans in a "shady" economy. As low-wage-slaves and
democratic serfs of the "service society, they will have to fawn on the
well-off winners of globalisation. The modern "working poor" may shine
the shoes of the last businessmen of the dying labour society, may sell contaminated
hamburgers to them, or may join the Security Corps to guard their shopping malls.
Those who left behind their brain on the coat rack may dream of working their
way up to the position of a service industry millionaire.

In Anglo-Saxon countries this horror scenario is reality meanwhile as it is
in Third World countries and Eastern Europe; and Euroland is determined to catch
up in rapid strides. The relevant financial papers make no secret of how they
imagine the future of labour. The children in Third World countries who wash
windscreens at polluted crossroads are depicted as the shining example of "entrepreneurial
initiative" and shall serve as a role model for the jobless in the respective
local "service desert". "The role model for the future is the
individual as the entrepreneur of his own labour power, being provident and
solely responsible for all his own life" says the "Commission on future
social questions of the free states of Bavaria and Saxony". In addition:
"There will be stronger demand for ordinary person-related services, if
the services rendered become cheaper, i.e. if the "service provider"
will earn lower wages". In a society of human "self-respect",
such a statement would trigger off social revolt. However, in a world of domesticated
workhorses, it will only engender a helpless nod.

The crook has destroyed working and taken away the worker's
wage even so. Now he [the worker] shall labour without a wage while picturing
to himself the blessing of success and profit in his prison cell. [...]
By means of forced labour he shall be trained to perform moral labour as
a free personal act.

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, Die deutsche Arbeit (The German Labour),

3. The neo-welfare-apartheid-state

The anti-neoliberal faction of the socially all-embracing labour camp cannot
bring itself to the liking of such a perspective. On the other hand, they are
deeply convinced that a human being that has no job is not a human being at
all. Nostalgically fixated on the postwar era of mass employment, they are bound
to the idea of reviving the labour society. The state administration shall fix
what the markets are incapable of. The purported normality of a labour society
is to be simulated by means of job programmes, municipally organised compulsory
labour for people on dole or welfare, subsidies, public debt, and other policies
of this sort. This half-hearted rehash of a state-regulated labour camp has
no chance at all, but remains to be the ideological point of departure for broad
stratums of the population who are already on the brink of disaster. Doomed
to fail, such steps put into practice are anything else but emancipatory.

The ideological transformation of "scarce labour" (tight labour market)
into a prime civil right necessarily excludes all foreigners. The social logic
of selection then is not questioned, but redefined: The individual struggle
for survival shall be defused by means of ethnic-nationalistic criteria. "Domestic
treadmills only for native citizens" is the outcry deep from the bottom
of the people's soul, who are suddenly able to combine motivated by their perverse
lust for labour. Right-wing populism makes no secret of such sentiment. Its
criticism of "rival society" only amounts to ethnic cleansing within
the shrinking zones of capitalist wealth.

Whereas the moderate nationalism of social democrats or Greens is set on treating
the old-established immigrants like natives and can even imagine naturalising
those people should they be able to prove themselves harmless and affable. Thereby
the intensified exclusion of refugees from the Eastern and African world can
be legitimised in a populist manner even better and without getting into a fuss.
Of course, the whole operation is well obscured by talking nineteen to the dozen
about humanity and civilisation. Manhunts for "illegal immigrants"
allegedly sneaking in domestic jobs shall not leave behind nasty bloodstains
or burn marks on German soil. Rather it is the business of the border police,
police forces in general, and the buffer states of "Schengenland",
which dispose of the problem lawfully and best of all far away from media coverage.

The state-run labour-simulation is violent and repressive by birth. It stands
for the absolute will to maintain the rule of the "labour idol" by
all means; even after its decease. This labour-bureaucratic fanaticism will
not grant peace to those who resorted to the very last hideouts of a welfare
state already fallen into ruins, i.e. to the ousted, jobless, or non-competitive,
let alone to those refusing to labour for good reasons. Welfare workers and
employment agents will haul them before the official interrogation commissions,
forcing them to kow-tow before the throne of the ruling corpse.

Usually the accused is given the benefit of doubt, but here the burden of proof
is shifted. Should the ostracised not want to live on air and Christian charity
for their further lives, they have to accept whatsoever dirty and slave work,
or any other absurd "occupational therapy" cooked up by job creation
schemes, just to demonstrate their unconditional readiness for labour. Whether
such job has rhyme or reason, not to mention any meaning, or is simply the realisation
of pure absurdity, does not matter at all. The main point is that the jobless
are kept moving to remind them incessantly of the one and only law governing
their existence on earth.

In the old days people worked to earn money. Nowadays the government spares
no expenses to simulate the labour-"paradise" lost for some hundred
thousand people by launching bizarre "job training schemes" or setting
up "training companies" in order to make them fit for "regular"
jobs they will never get. Ever newer and sillier steps are taken to keep up
the appearance that the idle running social treadmills can be kept in full swing
to the end of time. The more absurd the social constraint of "labour"
becomes, the more brutally it is hammered into the peoples' head that they cannot
even get a piece of bread for free.

In this respect "New Labour" and its imitators all over the world
concur with the neo-liberal scheme of social selection. In simulating jobs and
holding out beguiling prospects of a wonderful future for the labour society,
a firm moral legitimacy is created to crack down on the jobless and labour objectors
more fiercely. At the same time compulsory labour, subsidised wages, and so-called
"honorary citizen activity" bring down labour cost, entailing a massively
inflated low-wage sector and an increase in other lousy jobs of that sort.

The so-called activating workfare does even not spare persons who suffer from
chronic disease or single mothers with little children. Recipients of social
benefits are released from this administrative stranglehold only as soon as
the nameplate is tied to their toe (i.e. in mortuary). The only reason for such
state-obtrusiveness is to discourage as many people as possible from claiming
benefits at all by displaying dreadful instruments of torture - any miserable
job must appear comparatively pleasant.

Officially the paternalist state always only swings the whip out of love and
with the intention of sternly training its children, denounced as "work-shy",
to be tough in the name of their better progress. In fact, the pedagogical measures
only have the goal to drum the wards out. What else is the idea of conscripting
unemployed people and forcing them to go to the fields to harvest asparagus
(in Germany)? It is meant to push out the Polish seasonal workers, who accept
slave wages only because the exchange rate turns the pittance they get into
an acceptable income at home. Forced labourers are neither helped nor given
any "vocational perspective" with this measure. Even for the asparagus
growers, the disgruntled academics and reluctant skilled workers, favoured to
them as a present, are nothing but a nuisance. When, after a twelve-hour day,
the foolish idea of setting up a hot-dog stand as an act of desperation suddenly
appears in a more friendly light, the "aid to flexibility" has its
desired neo-British effect.

Any job is better than no job.

Bill Clinton, 1998
No job is as hard as no job.

A poster at the December 1998 rally, organised by initiatives for unemployed

Citizen work should be rewarded, not paid. [...] Whoever
does honorary citizen work clears himself of the stigma of being unemployed
and being a recipient of welfare benefits.

Ulrich Beck, The Soul of Democracy, 1997

4. Exaggeration and denial of the labour religion

The new fanaticism for labour with which this society reacts to the death of
its idol is the logical continuation and final stage of a long history. Since
the days of the Reformation, all the powers of Western modernisation have preached
the sacredness of work. Over the last 150 years, all social theories and political
schools were possessed by the idea of labour. Socialists and conservatives,
democrats and fascists fought each other to the death, but despite all deadly
hatred, they always paid homage to the labour idol together. "Push the
idler aside", is a line from the German lyrics of the international working
(labouring) class anthem; "labour makes free" it resounds eerily from
the inscription above the gate in Auschwitz. The pluralist post-war democracies
all the more swore by the everlasting dictatorship of labour. Even the constitution
of the ultra-catholic state of Bavaria lectures its citizens in the Lutheran
tradition: "Labour is the source of a people's prosperity and is subject
to the special protective custody of the state". At the end of the 20th
century, all ideological differences have vanished into thin air. What remains
is the common ground of a merciless dogma: Labour is the natural destiny of
human beings.

Today the reality of the labour society itself denies that dogma. The disciples
of the labour religion have always preached that a human being, according to
its supposed nature, is an "animal laborans" (working creature/animal).
Such an "animal" actually only assumes the quality of being a human
by subjecting matter to his will and in realising himself in his products, as
once did Prometheus. The modern production process has always made a mockery
of this myth of a world conqueror and a demigod, but might have had a real substratum
in the era of inventor capitalists like Siemens or Edison and their skilled
workforce. Meanwhile, however, such airs and graces became completely absurd.

Whoever asks about the content, meaning, and goal of his or her job, will go
crazy or becomes a disruptive element in the social machinery designed to function
as an end-in-itself. "Homo faber", once full of conceit as to his
craft and trade, a type of human who took seriously what he did in a parochial
way, has become as old-fashioned as a mechanical typewriter. The treadmill has
to run at all cost, and "that's all there is to it". Advertising departments
and armies of entertainers, company psychologists, image advisors and drug dealers
are responsible for creating meaning. Where there is continual babble about
motivation and creativity, there is not a trace left of either of them - save
self-deception. This is why talents such as autosuggestion, self-projection
and competence simulation rank among the most important virtues of managers
and skilled workers, media stars and accountants, teachers and parking lot guards.

The crisis of the labour society has completely ridiculed the claim that labour
is an eternal necessity imposed on humanity by nature. For centuries it was
preached that homage has to be paid to the labour idol just for the simple reason
that needs can not be satisfied without humans sweating blood: To satisfy needs,
that is the whole point of the human labour camp existence. If that were true,
a critique of labour would be as rational as a critique of gravity. So how can
a true "law of nature" enter into a state of crisis or even disappear?
The floor leaders of the society's labour camp factions, from neo-liberal gluttons
for caviar to labour unionist beer bellies, find themselves running out of arguments
to prove the pseudo-nature of labour. Or how can they explain that three-quarters
of humanity are sinking in misery and poverty only because the labour system
no longer needs their labour?

It is not the curse of the Old Testament "In the sweat of your face you
shall eat your bread" that is to burden the ostracised any longer, but
a new and inexorable condemnation: "You shall not eat because your sweat
is superfluous and unmarketable". That is supposed to be a law of nature?
This condemnation is nothing but an irrational social principle, which assumes
the appearance of a natural compulsion because it has destroyed or subjugated
any other form of social relations over the past centuries and has declared
itself to be absolute. It is the "natural law" of a society that regards
itself as very "rational", but in truth only follows the instrumental
rationality of its labour idol for whose "factual inevitabilities"
(Sachzwänge) it is ready to sacrifice the last remnant of its humanity.

Work, however base and mammonist, is always connected
with nature. The desire to do work leads more and more to the truth and
to the laws and prescriptions of nature, which are truths.

Thomas Carlyle, Working and not Despairing, 1843

5. Labour is a coercive social principle

Labour is in no way identical with humans transforming nature (matter) and
interacting with each other. As long as mankind exist, they will build houses,
produce clothing, food and many other things. They will raise children, write
books, discuss, cultivate gardens, and make music and much more. This is banal
and self-evident. However, the raising of human activity as such, the pure "expenditure
of labour power", to an abstract principle governing social relations without
regard to its content and independent of the needs and will of the participants,
is not self-evident.

In ancient agrarian societies, there were all sorts of domination and personal
dependencies, but not a dictatorship of the abstraction labour. Activities in
the transformation of nature and in social relations were in no way self-determined,
but were hardly subject to an abstract "expenditure of labour power".
Rather, they were embedded in complex rules of religious prescriptions and in
social and cultural traditions with mutual obligations. Every activity had its
own time and scene; simply there was no abstract general form of activity.

It fell to the modern commodity producing system as an end-in-itself with its
ceaseless transformation of human energy into money to bring about a separated
sphere of so-called labour "alienated" from all other social relations
and abstracted from all content. It is a sphere demanding of its inmates unconditional
surrender, life-to-rule, dependent robotic activity severed from any other social
context, and obedience to an abstract "economic" instrumental rationality
beyond human needs. In this sphere detached from life, time ceases to be lived
and experienced time; rather time becomes a mere raw material to be exploited
optimally: "time is money". Any second of life is charged to a time
account, every trip to the loo is an offence, and every gossip is a crime against
the production goal that has made itself independent. Where labour is going
on, only abstract energy may be spent. Life takes place elsewhere - or nowhere,
because labour beats the time round the clock. Even children are drilled to
obey Newtonian time to become "effective" members of the workforce
in their future life. Leave of absence is granted merely to restore an individual's
"labour power". When having a meal, celebrating or making love, the
second hand is ticking at the back of one's mind.

In the sphere of labour it does not matter what is being done, it is the act
of doing itself that counts. Above all, labour is an end-in-itself especially
in the respect that it is the raw material and substance of monetary capital
yields - the limitless dynamic of capital as self-valorising value. Labour is
nothing but the "liquid (motion) aggregate" of this absurd end-in-itself.
That's why all products must be produced as commodities - and not for any practical
reason. Only in commodity form products can "solidify" the abstraction
money, whose essence is the abstraction labour. Such is the mechanism of the
alienated social treadmill holding captive modern humanity.

For this reason, it doesn't matter what is being produced as well as what use
is made of it - not to mention the indifference to social and environmental
consequences. Whether houses are built or landmines are produced, whether books
are printed or genetically modified tomatoes are grown, whether people fall
sick as a result, whether the air gets polluted or "only" good taste
goes to the dogs - all this is irrelevant as long as, whatever it takes, commodities
can be transformed into money and money into fresh labour. The fact that any
commodity demands a concrete use, and should it be a destructive one, has no
relevance for the economic rationality for which the product is nothing but
a carrier of once expended labour, or "dead labour".

The accumulation of "dead labour", in other words "capital",
materialising in the money form is the only "meaning" the modern commodity
producing system knows about. What is "dead labour"? A metaphysical
madness! Yes, but a metaphysics that has become concrete reality, a "reified"
madness that holds this society in its iron grip. In perpetual buying and selling,
people don't interact as self-reliant social beings, but only execute the presupposed
end-in-itself as social automatons.

The worker (lit. labourer) feels to be himself outside
work and feels outside himself when working. He is at home when he does
not work. When he works, he is not at home. As a result, his work is forced
labour, not voluntary labour. Forced labour is not the satisfaction of a
need but only a means for satisfying needs outside labour. Its foreignness
appears in that labour is avoided as a plague as soon as no physical or
other force exists.

Karl Marx, Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844

6. Labour and capital are the two sides of the same coin

The political left has always eagerly venerated labour. It has stylised labour
to be the true nature of a human being and mystified it into the supposed counter-principle
of capital. Not labour was regarded as a scandal, but its exploitation by capital.
As a result, the programme of all "working class parties" was always
the "liberation of labour" and not "liberation from labour".
Yet the social opposition of capital and labour is only the opposition of different
(albeit unequally powerful) interests within the capitalist end-in-itself. Class
struggle was the form of battling out opposite interests on the common social
ground and reference system of the commodity-producing system. It was germane
to the inner dynamics of capital accumulation. Whether the struggle was for
higher wages, civil rights, better working conditions or more jobs, the all-embracing
social treadmill with its irrational principles was always its implied presupposition.

From the standpoint of labour, the qualitative content of production counts
as little as it does from the standpoint of capital. The only point of interest
is selling labour power at best price. The idea of determining aim and object
of human activity by joint decision is beyond the imagination of the treadmill
inmates. If the hope ever existed that such self-determination of social reproduction
could be realised in the forms of the commodity-producing system, the "workforce"
has long forgotten about this illusion. Only "employment" or "occupation"
is a matter of concern; the connotations of these terms speak volumes about
the end-in-itself character of the whole arrangement and the state of mental
immaturity of the participants comes to light.

What is being produced and to what end, and what might be the consequences
neither matters to the seller of the commodity labour power nor to its buyer.
The workers of nuclear power plants and chemical factories protest the loudest
when their ticking time bombs are deactivated. The "employees" of
Volkswagen, Ford or Toyota are the most fanatical disciples of the automobile
suicide programme, not merely because they are compelled to sell themselves
for a living wage, but because they actually identify with their parochial existence.
Sociologists, unionists, pastors and other "professional theologians"
of the "social question" regard this as a proof for the ethical-moral
value of labour. "Labour shapes personality", they say. Yes, the personalities
of zombies of the commodity production who can no longer imagine a life outside
of their dearly loved treadmills, for which they drill themselves hard - day
in, day out.

As the working class was hardly ever the antagonistic contradiction to capital
or the historical subject of human emancipation, capitalists and managers hardly
control society by means of the malevolence of some "subjective will of
exploitation". No ruling caste in history has led such a wretched life
as a "bondman" as the harassed managers of Microsoft, Daimler-Chrysler
or Sony. Any medieval baron would have deeply despised these people. While he
was devoted to leisure and squandered wealth orgiastically, the elite of the
labour society does not allow itself any pause. Outside the treadmills, they
don't know anything else but to become childish. Leisure, delight in cognition,
realisation and discovery, as well as sensual pleasures, are as foreign to them
as to their human "resource". They are only the slaves of the labour
idol, mere functional executives of the irrational social end-in-itself.

The ruling idol knows how to enforce its "subjectless" (Marx) will
by means of the "silent (imp