Within months the crisis of market economy has managed to do to Greece what in past eras required brutal wars or devastating natural desasters. First hit by the sudden (but hardly unexpected) end of the speculative growth, especially on the real estate market, Greece was then amongst the countries hit hardest by the public debt crisis. By the droves investors lost faith in the Greek governments ability to repay loans given generously in the past and the refinancing with additional loans that had worked so well in the past and which had helped to keep global economy growing suddenly became unsustainable, as the decreasing faith of investors directly translated into increasing interest rates, making the tried and tested modus operandi of the last decades too costly to keep up. Greece was hardly special in any way, at least concerning their economic hardships, and that it could have hit any country within the Eurozone was patently clear wherever perception wasn't clouded by racist rhetorics about the "lazy southerners". Worse, should the Greek economy collapse, it could cause a domino effect that would send the entire Eurozone - and with it the world - into a downward spiral and deeper into global recession. After all, large parts of the public debt of Greece were loans given by other European states or their biggest banks and this debt - and especially the interest paid for it - was capital with which both operated and paid bills of their own.
It therefore wasn't out of kindness of heart that other nations of the Eurozone repeatedly handed out loans with interest rates unavailable to Greece on the free market or that they promised to service some of Greeces debt should the small mediterranean country default after all. In order to save their own money, Germany and co. had to rebuy public faith in the Greek state and its ability to pay. It is doubtful that, in case of a Greek failure to pay, the remaining Eurozone could stay true to their promises in regards to Greek debt even if they wanted to, but they don't have to prove it. The only important part is, that the market public believes in this guarantuee and starts to invest into loans to the Greek government again. At the core of this there is a "back to normality" policy that seeks to enable the Greek government to continue deficit spending like other governments. That this is deeply paradox, considering the crisis has clearly shown the limits of this attempt to import purely fictive future growth and turn it into real present economic growth, is clear, but illustrates only an inability to do politics beyond this point within the framework of capitalist economy.
However, if we can't move forward, maybe we can move backwards? The other answer to the problems of capitalist economics that doesn't touch capitalism itself, instead of a "borrow and spend" politics loosely based on Keynesian economics, is the neoclassical approach that seeks to take the state out of the equation by cutting its debts. At the core of neoclassical thinking is a deeply religious faith in a "natural order of the market" and the belief that, once interferences by state and organized labor are removed, the market will strike an equilibrium of growth on a high level. Ironically, Europe has attempted to do both: save Greece through a semi-Keynesian public investment of its memberstates into the Greek state, but at the same time force Greece - especially due to demands from Germany - to enact a historically unprecedented austerity program. This two-faced chimaire leaves its marks throughout European politics in the age of crisis. Europe's central bank pursues a policy of flooding the markets with money to promote economic growth, Europe's economists flood society with cheap metaphors about states being housewives who now need to tighten one's belt.
But states aren't housewives and their expenditures is a very important part of the economy. What austerity measures do in times of crisis can be witnessed in Greece, where saying the economy collapsed is a bit of an understatement. Starving schoolchildren, a ballooning number of homeless people, widespread poverty and unemployment. What we witness in Greece isn't just a temporary mistake, an error of capitalist history caused by faulty politics - it is the ugly face of the market baring its teeth. There is enough food to feed everyone in Greece - lavishly. All the houses where the now homeless used to live are still as good as they used to be when people still lived in them and they could easily offer shelter to them again. And isn't it ironic that, while more than one quarter of the workforce is registered as unemployed, those who still got employment are forced to work longer, both in terms of workhours and in terms of age before retirement? The market is a mad end of itself which considers a growing number of people dispensable - and proceeds to dispense them - but never dares to question its own maxims.
And don't dare to question it! As much as Greece as a image of things to come for the rest of the capitalist center in terms of economic hardships, Greece is also a textbook example of how bourgeoise society and government will deal with the social unrest in its wake. If the impoverished masses grow unruly and won't allow for themselves to be removed from the equation peacefully (i.e. starve), capitalist accumulation will be maintained with all means available. However, considering that economic crisis doesn't just decrease affordable income of the vast majority of people, but also that of the state, Greece is facing a dilemma that the capitalist world faced before after the great crisis of 1929 : how to combat a growing number of restless and poor with decreasing funds?
The answer can be summarized as "find an enemy" and "enlist deputies". Both aren't necessarily centrally orchestrated, but the state will gladly seek to take advantage of any such phenomenas where they blossom in the public. Enemies the Greek citizens have identified many, some classic (immigrants, jews), some seemingly not (bankers, the rich, Germans). However, they all share one common characteristic: to find someone to blame for the hardships, someone who willingly caused the sudden poverty sweeping the nation. Stereotypes of lazy immigrants taking advantage of the modern welfare state land themselves as a handy explanation to a growing public deficit; the idea of a jewish world conspiracy has always blossomed in times of economic crisis because of its simplicity in face of a complex situation; even the idea that the banks are responsible for the crisis due to their speculation or the rich due to their massive tax fraud or the Germans due to their government demanding strict adherence to austerity policies are all obscuring the issue at hand, despite the fact that speculation, tax fraud and German politics are very real whereas welfare-queens and jewish conspiracy are not.
When Greece is persecuting and publically shaming rich tax offenders it will endanger the survival of capitalism as little as it will, when it raids camps of illegalized immigrants and begins mass deportations. However, if it watched idly as the hungry masses take their food from the supermarkets without paying, that would be quite another story. The success of Golden Dawn can be explained as much with it servicing all the ressentiment and all the easy explanations in search of someone guilty for a problem that is in fact created by an apersonal and blind "machine" of public markets, as it can be explained with the fact that they are willing to do all the jobs the police can't. Half of the Greek police voted for the Neo-fascists of Golden Dawn, according to some estimates, and there is more than one Greek citizen saying that, when he or she asked the police for help, they were referred to Golden Dawn. When I say that the government enlists the help of the fascists to sweep the streets, do not misunderstand this as orders from the top brass, the politicians whose faces we see in the newspapers or on TV. It's those who actually have to deal with the everyday problems, the police officers and the beuraucrats, who are amongst the first to enlist the help of professional political thugs.
The anticapitalist left is facing troublesome problems in such times. Many of its positions, many of its rhetorics and many beliefs of their public speakers lend themselves handily to the neofascist rhetorics. They may not share the racism of Golden Dawn, but often times, they are as much in search of some actual group of persons to blame that they fail to criticise capitalism itself. But if they don't criticise the idea that "just the banks" are responsible for the crisis, or just Germany's self-righteous demands, they will seem like the weaker, the less radical and the less consequential answer to the issues of the people. It may only be a small step from the idea that a bunch of scrupelous bankers brought the crisis upon us to the idea that a bunch of scrupelous jews did it, but it will seem that the left does not dare to speak it out due to the shackles of political correctness. And if Greece is assaulted by German imperialism, die-hard Nationalists will seem better suited to defend it than the Anarchists, who want the Greek nation abolished. On top of this all, the idea that bankers, or German politicans, or immigrants or jews caused all the trouble has at its core the idea that capitalism was working just well for the Greek people, unless some outside force disturbed the natural order of things.
But the crisis is a consequence of capitalism itself, of its inability to grow beyond this point. Material wealth may reach historically unknown dimensions, but when less and less work is needed to produce it, a society that has put money and trade at the center of human interaction will face a dilemma: who is to buy all these goods? It's not like this simple question could cause capitalism to rethink itself. Its elites will instead administrate the poverty, the loss and the shortage - with all means available. If you ever asked yourself why the Greek state is raiding squatted houses in Athens, arresting hundreds in the process, or engaging in massive deportation campaigns against illegalized immigrants, but at the same time not only seems oblivious to Golden Dawn, but actively supports its attempts to root itself in Greek society: this is the core of it. Golden Dawn does not threaten capitalism, but it provides much needed raw force to deal with those who do.
Society desires a certain kind of evil: the stranger, the outsider, coming in the dark from somewhere far beyond our cozy, clean and suburban neighbourhoods. The fact that said society itself is tainted to the core by all the things it perceives as moral vice - greed is necessary to survive against competition on the market; violence is an everyday occurence to enforce the compliance of the poor, the women, the socially deviant or those who happen to live on top of the ressources we consume - it doesn't mean that bourgeoise society may accept the sinner as children of their own. To the contrary, it creates a pressing psychological need to perform an excorcism on those who have drawn public attention for their crimes, to find something that excludes these people from the sacred church of suburbia and makes them different from us.
The gunman of Newton, who killed his mother, then drove to the school where she was a teacher and proceeded to kill another 26 people, including 20 elementary school children before finally committing suicide - he's a perfect example. His murders will probably maintain a shred of mystery for us. All puzzle pieces taken together may paint the picture of a man who felt the need to take revenge on his parents and the community he grew up in, but it remains a distant crime, even more so than other school shootings, because many of the victims were so young. I don't believe myself able to explain these events. However, the list of explanations given by others, by journalists and politicians, philosophers and priests, is potentially endless. They all have in common that they tell us more about the people trying to explain the massacres, than those committing them.
An almost automatized explanation of the past, however, has seemingly vanished: "The video games did it." There is a subtle, psychological fear in that explanation, stemming from the technological revolution the introduction of modern computing brought to the economy. Many workplaces became obsolete as computers could do the same job faster and more efficient than humans. It may sound like a long shot from the fear of being "rationalized" to blaming video games for massacres, but there is a subconscious connection: the fear that computers take over our life, that, even where they don't replace us, they at least take control of our lifes. Movies like Terminator or later Matrix where symptomatic for that era. And if computers can take our jobs, surely they can as well command our children to kill?
That era is over and with it vanished the popularity of that explanation. Computers are part of our lives now, part of our daily lifes. The basement dwelling nerds of the 90s have grown up to become parents of their own and they wouldn't dare to blame something they grew up with and which caused seemingly no harm to themselves. Moreso, the rationalization of our own lifes has proceeded to a point where we have begun to accept and internalize all the new hardships which mobile phones and home computers have made possible. We are available to our bosses 24 hours a day, we share all our steps through social networking, we optimize our bodies and minds for capital accumulation - and we download the apps that structure our life for capitalism voluntarily.
The occasional, irrational killing spree remained and so did the need to explain it - somehow. If the shooter is black or brown or yellow - or in some other way a foreigner, the explanation is easy. We won't speak it out openly, western society believes itself above racism, after all. But the ethnicity of the shooter will be hinted on, with a varying degree of subtlety. And society will be content with the assurance: he was different, he wasn't one of us. The Virginia Tech massacre was one such case. Cho Seung-hui didn't just sound foreign, he wasn't even an US-citizen. However, the recent Newton shooter, Adam Lanza, he was white, he was one of us, the child of one of the teachers and a child from the community he committed the massacre in. This has caused some truly spectacular explanations to emerge, of which the insistence that he had Aspergers syndrome is the most glaringly unjustified.
It doesn't matter of that was true or not: Aspergers does not make you any more likely to take your mothers gun and shoot her and her pupils. Children with Aspergers syndrome aren't ticking time bombs with a tendency to violence. They are different, however, and that is the key to understanding this explanation: it makes Adam Lanza "not one of us". We don't have to face our society's very own demons, we don't have to deal with the fact that it was his mother who taught him how to shoot and whose guns Adam Lanza used. We don't have to deal with the question whether or not, perhaps, something caused his anger which we could understand or that maybe we find that he had issues the people around him consistently ignored, just the same way we ignore the wrongs that occur around us still. No, "Aspergers did it" sounds so much easier, even though people with Aspergers tend to follow the law more strictly than others because they tend to view issues in simpler schematics, more "black and white". We don't have Aspergers, that's what counts.
The victims of this public scare, of course, are the children who actually do have Aspergers syndrome and who are now stigmatized wrongfully as "potential massmurderers".
If, however, you don't want to blame Aspergers for the shooting, the world offers you a vide array of scapegoats to choose from instead. How about the German journalist Walter Hollstein, who blames feminism for school shootings? According to him, schools drown young men in "feminine morals" without allowing room for their masculinity and this "broken masculinity", Hollstein claims, provokes those excessive killings. I don't feel the need to dig any deeper into this pile of anti-feminine gibberish. It should be glaring obvious that this neither makes any sense, nor is applicable to any of the school massacres the world had to witness. What makes this explanation more perfidious -and worth noting at this point - is that this goes beyond the need to exorcise the culprit from our communities. He is taken back in, instead, only to redefine the boundries and limits of what's "normal and accepted" in favour of a traditional (you may say: reactionary) image of masculinity and femininity.
There is little room below that in terms of depravity, but someones got to fill that remaining gap: Iranian journalist Ali Haj Mohammadi gets straight to the point on the state-run website qodsna.com and blames the jews. In fact, he claims, Adam Lanza was a jew, suffering from a mental disease common amongst western jews. Aspergers Syndrom drives jews to not only kill children of an elementary school, but also to oppress the people of Palestine. This is worse than Hollstein, because "normal and acceptable" is no longer associated with behaviour and morals, but with ethnicity.
There is a broad consensus across the globe that the people of Gaza are victims suffering from a brutal occupation. There is little focus on Gaza, however, as long as Israel is not shooting back. And the ignorance regarding the nature of the Hamas borders on the maliciously intentional. For many, they are "freedom fighters", involved in a justified struggle against Israeli aggressors and, at the very least, the democratically elected government of Gaza.
Founded in 1987 as Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Hamas can trace its roots back to the 1940s, when the Muslim Brotherhood founded their first branch within Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood itself can be described as the pan-Arabic version of fascism, as far as this umbrella term goes to include movements of the far right who espouse a radical, chauvinist and authoritarian ideology rooted in national rebirth mythology. Because it summons the semi-mythological past of the first Caliphate, Arabic fascism is heavily loaded with political religion and a pan-arabic nationalism rather than a particular. It also draws heavily on antisemitism for its political ideology, expressed in pogroms such as those happening in Egypt during 1938.
Similiarily, the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood participated in the Arab revolts between 1936 to 1939. Violence against Jews, such as the murder of sixteen jewish dockworkers on the 19th of April 1936, was an integral part of these years, making it part anti-colonial uprising, part antisemitic pogrom. A fateful symbiosis that should carry on till this day. It also echoed similiar developements within Europe, which should culminate in the murder of at least six million jews during the holocaust. Antisemitism was and remains, a global phenomena which prospers during economic crisis.
Let's note at this point that all this was well before the foundation of Israel. Zionist settlers were targeted as much as jews whose families had lived in the region for centuries - and the jewish migrants who came to Palestine did so because they hoped to escape antisemitic violence in other parts of the world. They were not the collaborateurs of imperialism which Islamists and Stalinists alike painted them to be, because their dream of an idependent jewish homeland was in itself a threat to the British supremacy of the Palestinian lands. In fact, secular Palestinian Nationalists had voiced their support of jewish immigration, hoping to draw in the support of well-educated and well-connected, maybe even wealthy, European jews to support their anticolonial struggle.
Fast forward to the eighties. The Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, their fight against Jews defeated repeatedly by Israeli military forces, had withdrawn largely to caritative and social works, hoping to establish a lasting base amongst the population. Secular nationalists, supported by the Soviet Union, had dominated the political landscape for the longest time in the region. It was the rise of Islamism in Iran and the occurence of the First Intifada which prompted the Brotherhood in Palestine to abandon their political - and military - inactivity. Radical members had left the Brotherhood after the revolution in Iran to take up armed struggle, including a number of murders of Israeli civilians. Similiar groups propagating armed struggle were founded by Fatah. The inner-Palestinian political landscape shifted to the right, notably marked by the violent takeover of the Islamic University in Gaza by Islamist militants.
The Muslim Brotherhood did not wish to be left out on this developement and founded Hamas in 1987 - initially without announcing their political connection to the new group, to avoid a backlash should the project fail. Only in 1988, when Hamas had established itself as political actor in Palestine, they revealed themselves as part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas political strategy has been dominated by its antisemitism, which is integral and undeniable part of its political manifesto and all its publications. It is important to note that Hamas is not fighting a war for a two-state solution or for political or social rights of the Palestinian people, nor and end of jewish settlement or to lift the Gaza blockade. Hamas political doctrine is aimed at the extermination of jewish existence. The denial of the holocaust, as with all holocaust-denial movements, is part of this programme only to enable it to be repeated. Supported by Iran, its ideological brothers and idols, Hamas has turned Gaza into a missile-base, from which in 2012 alone, by the time the recent Israeli airstrikes started, about 800 missiles had been fired into Israel. Terrorbombings and suicide attacks have been part of the Islamistic armed struggle for decades now. Hamas and its ideological brothers do not discriminate between military or civilian targets in Israel. In their antisemitic worldview, all jews are the same, paradise can only come after the last jew took its last breath.
But Hamas violent campaign does not only extend towards jews. In a similiar eliminatory fashion, Hamas roots out all signs of "moral decay" amongst its own population. It's a horribly ironic joke that Judith Butler, that posterwoman of the queer-movement, has decried the achievements of the LGBT-movement in Israel as mere state-controlled "pink-washing", while attributing some sort of progressive momentum to Hamas. Islamists offer only one thing to homosexuals: death. Similiarily, it is a mockery of even bourgeoise democracy when stating that Hamas is a legitimately elected government of Gaza. While it is true that Hamas won a majority in the 2006 elections, that was followed by the violent coup d'etat in 2008, ever since when the Hamas is ruling Gaza with unquestioned authority and by force. Six men had to suffer the consequences of this rule, though they are probably just the tip of the iceberg: they were executed by Hamas gunmen on the day the ceasefire with Israel was declared. One man was chained to a motorcycle and dredged through the streets of Gaza. Supposedly they had been supporting Israel with information from within Gaza. Naturally, there was not even a sham-trial.
The rule of Hamas in Gaza has all signs of a fascist dictatorship. Even kids are raised and trained to become fighters against Israel. It is truly worrying that groups and individuals throughout the world, who believe themself emancipatory, consider Hamas a valid ally. But not only a movement still heavily chained to the old Leninist dogma and Soviet state doctrine of anti-imperialist struggle, which can see Israel only as a tool of western colonialism and not as an independent jewish reaction towards the genocidal antisemitism in Europe, can befriend the Islamist movements of the world. Torn between the fact that the western states themselves are targeted as enemies by the Islamists, and their need for an auxilliary corps in a region that is fundamentally important for the global market, but to whose population said market has little to offer, the western world ends up increasingly supporting the radical right of the Arabic world. Close allies of the NATO states, like Saudi-Arabia or Qatar, funnel money and weapons to a plethora of militant groups in the region. Wherever Islamism is opposed by the west, such as the EU including Hamas on their list of terrorist organizations, this is not expression of a fundamental opposition to their ideology and political actions, but rather rooted in a geopolitical struggle with Iran.
Similiarily, capitalist nationstates have relied on Islamic Fascism in the past to secure continued existence of a capital accumulation from which most of the population had been excluded anyways. Despite mixed experiences in the past - the most popular example here would be Afghanistan, primarily because the United States later had to fight the very same political movement it had helped to seize power - it seems that the core of the capitalist world has little other options. In face of economic crisis and a now longstanding inability to expand the accumulation of value fast enough to allow for broader parts of the population to receive a share, there is but one way to ensure the undisturbed business for those strata still benefiting from it. And Islamism is the only mass-movement in the Arab world which is both powerful and ruthless enough to take on this role.
Someone in "the west" publishes something regarded as insulting to the islamic religion and "the muslims" burst into a flurry of violent riots - it seems like an eternal law of modern society.
And it is one big fraud.
Both sides in this game are political minority groups with a well defined chauvinist agenda that can be described at least as fascistoid in its components and they are more than willing to play this game of transcontinental ping pong. It is no mere coincidence that it was a fundamentalist christian group which caused the latest controversy with its production of a movie intentionally designed to insult the core-figure of the islamic faith as a child-molesting lunatic. Nor was it a coincidence that the reaction on the other end of the globe was marked by complete inaction for a suspiciously long time and violence struck only on the symbolic date of the eleventh of september.
But let's sort out this riddle one issue at a time. Seemingly on the start of this controversy we have a group on the fringe of the American political life, radical evangelists who desire a country whose laws don't just adhere to the bible, but rather whose laws >are< the bible. That these people assault the muslim faith as a whole seems blatantly obvious, given their fanatical insistence on the purity of their own faith. It is obvious that their politics are nothing more than leftovers of the medieval era. Or does it?
In fact, their brand of fundamentalism is a surprisingly modern ideology, although their agenda seems direct at all things modern in itself. They are rooted not in the medieval thought world, which is remote and emotionally incomprehensible to us after generations of capitalist "tender loving care". Their ideology is ironically the reaffirmation of the values of early modernity against the developements of later modernity, the defense of the ideals of christian protestantism against the complete dismantling of the social fabric as a result of the very same developement they had helped to birth into the world. They defend the values of "honest labor" against a world that is increasingly ridding itself of the need for such labor, even though it was the practice of rooting the economic developement and the source of value in this very labor that provided the need, not just the desire out of sheer coziness, but the very need to reduce the amount of labor needed to produce in order to survive. They defend the traditional family structure that has lost its usefulness to capitalism with the invention of the dishwasher, television and the instant-food.
And they also defend the system of national economics against a globalized production process. Their social romanticism, however, reaffirms the very categories that have led investors to consider expanding their business beyond the boundaries of their statehood. They believe in the "american ideals", they believe in the market economy and in the cunning and laborous individual who succeeds as a reward of his merit. Many evangelists have their Ayn Rand standing right next to the bible. Firmly rooted in the ideological base of capitalism themselves, they are unable to perceive the transnational upheavals, the decay of the national economies and the desastrous powers that they believe to have wrecked their lifes as those apersonal forces of market competition and all its unholy children - instead, the search for an outside source, a danger from beyond.
The muslim community was never the only target for such fears, but it has grown rapidly in popularity. Fears of an "islamic takeover", of muslim immigrants "outbreeding" other faiths, of a transnational campaign to make the western world part of a new caliphate are very symptomatic for such an irrational paranoia that borders mass hysteria. It is so succesful because it can tap into very real feelings of "life getting worse" in the wake of a rapidly advancing globalization of capitalism and because it does not call into question the internalized values of a capitalist society, which even the downtrodden and impoverished have blindly accepted as transhistorical "essentials" of human life in itself: labor, property, the state and nations. Instead, it attributes recent changes to an outside attack and in the process creates an almost mythical past it seeks to revive. A lost paradise that for the broad majority may "only" date back to the era of Fordism, which was never as joyous as modern nationalists make it sounds - while for the christian fundamentalists its the very distant past of messianic enlightement. Both popular and fringe version of this ideological developement are rebirthist, promising their followers that one day in the future their long lost days of glory and prosperity and salvation will return. Not unlike Mussolini promised the Italians the rebirth of the Roman Empire or Hitler promised the Germans a new Germanic civilization which, by all standards of historical science, never really existed.
Only on the first glance it is ironic that the closest analogy to this developement is, amongst the muslims, found in the shape of the radical islamists - the muslim brotherhood, the salafists and the theocracy in Iran. On a closer look, these developements are, if not mutually dependant upon each other, so at the very least symbiotic in their existence. The ideologies of these islamist groups and the evangelist christians in the euro-american sphere are almost completely exchangable, whereas the only difference is found where direct references to objects of their faith are concerned. Whereas most evangelists await the second coming of christ, the Islamists desire the return of the muslim caliphate and, in the case of the Shia fundamentalists which for example have shaped Iranian state doctrine, the return of the 12th Imam as Mahdi.
Much like their christian counterparts, the Islamists believe their countries under permanent attack by a foreign threat they need to resist with all available means. The "riots" in the islamic world are not responses to insults to their faith, nor do they represent a majority opinion. They are, for the most parts, well organized publicity stunts and designed to intimidate internal opposition as much as convey a message to the outside world from which the perceived threat to their existence and traditional society stems from. When the US ambassador to Libya was killed, it wasn't a spontaneous outburst of anger, it was a well-planned and properly executed attack by an organized militia force utilizing heavy weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades and mortars and conducted with precise knowledge of the compound, to make sure their target was actually killed.
Days later, the people of Libya showed the world what was actually a spontaneous outburst of anger, but not in a protest against any "Mohammed-video" or caricature: they stormed several outposts of militia units, dismantling the bases and dispersing the militias, followed by a government ban on the armed militia forces. They did so at the risk of their own lifes, not just to readjust the message that had been sent from Libya to the west, but also because these islamist militias were a very real power factor within the political landscape and far from acting in the best interest of large stratas of the Libyan society.
But the global echo towards these events was embarassing. Few people took notice of this event and the focus was still very clearly on the violent "protests" in the muslim world - which were never perceived as what they really are, the mass gatherings of an organized political movement with a clear-cut agenda. Perhaps too easily this image of the "angry muslim" fits into the epidemic fear of an islamic invasion of Euro-America. A portrayal of the image that is easily exploited by anti-muslim racists in the western sphere, fueling their sentiments with further productions such as the infamous "Mohammed-video". Which in turn the Islamists in the arabic sphere gladly take to further their own agenda. Both movements mirror each other and their activities always strengthen not only their own positions, but especially those of their supposed enemies - rather their ideological brethren - at the opposite of the globe.
When the Swiss newspaper "Die Weltwoche" recently titled "The Roma are coming" - illustrated by the picture of a child pointing a gun straight into the camera - it was but one example of many how the most despiseful of sentiments are pushing back into the public discourse. Anti-Ziganist stereotypes were never gone, quite to the contrary: a public debate on this specific form of racism had never occured in any country of Europe and anti-Ziganism remained entrenched within all European societies. What, perhaps, is new at least in recent history is the straightforwardness with which these sentiments are once again put forward by influental media, leading politicians and large parts of the self-proclaimed elite.
The tropes remain the same: "Gypsies" are dirty, lazy, dishonest, criminal, homeless and unhygienic. So much for the stereotype. It'd be useless, when adressing the stereotypes, to point out what the real situation of the people labelled as "Gypsies" is like. The conclusion, that Roma and Sinti are perfectly normal people, just like everyone else, should be painfully obvious. Yet, even the strongest of evidence to the contrary would not disperse the hatred towards these people, because anti-Ziganism was never about the people identified as Zigani. This particular ideology is a construct of the early modern era and the "Gypsies" were one of several ethnic groups used to project ideas, sentiments and feelings which the developing nationstate and capitalist citizenship wanted to rid itself of. "Gypsies" were given a set of stereotypes that embodied what the modern man of the enlightement-era sought to overcome. They themselves had never done anything to warrant such treatment.
Using entire groups of people as an ideological "wastedump" was a staple of developing modernity. Whereas the cultures outside of the European hemisphere were accused of "primitivity" - again, as a negative example for what the modern European man sought to overcome - the Jews, for example, where charged with the negative results of developing modernity. The social changes marked by developing capitalism were attributed to the jewish people who became fatally "overcivilized" in the eyes of the "domestic" Europeans: so out of touch with their environment, that they became the embodiment of greed. Women, meanwhile, had all those activities latched upon their backs that could neither earn a revenue in the wage-labor economy that developed during that era nor were of military or political nature, yet were nevertheless of crucial importance to the survival of society as a whole: the reproduction (raising children, cooking, cleaning and other vital tasks that remained unpaid). In every of these cases, the need for an embodiment of the ideological extremes the enlightened man thought himself above tied itself seamlessly to existing perceptions, but changed them dramatically in the process.
Anti-Ziganism served a function for the developing nationstates of Europe, in that they served as a "warning". These people were stateless wanderers who, according to the anti-Ziganist sentiment, were unable and unwilling to settle down, assume proper jobs and respect property. "Gypsies" were once regarded as respectable, yet strange, travellers when they first came to Europe. Medieval society cared little for who they actually were and tied them into their own folklore and spiritual worldview, making the migrants that came to Europe pilgrims on a pilgrimage - and attributing varying sources of origin to them, depending on which biblical location best fitted the regional perception. "Gypsy", for example, has its roots in "Egyptian", despite no Zigani people originating from that country. Pilgrims, however, were to be respected and sheltered in medieval society, which was fundamentally different from the situation the Sinti and Roma found themselves with when Europeand started sorting themselves into nationalities and drew borders on the map they now deemed of eternal validity.
Yes, the "Gypsies" became the embodiment of things the modern European citizen sought not to be. The enlightenment-era man knew his nationality and home, worked hard (in fact, the very prerequisite for being a human for many enlightenment-philosophes was to work!) respected the law and authority and property - the "Gypsy" was an eternal wanderer without loyalty nor home, without respect to law and authority, dirty and lazy. Stereotypes such as these helped the national identities of modern Europe develope. European nationalism grew from the alienation of entire groups of people, including the "Gypsies" on a prominent position.
It should come as no surprise now that, in an era of globalization and the decay of established structures and categories of national identity, there is a considerable reactionary rollback as those frightened by the massive global changes are insisting on their established categories. A rollback that also sweeps Anti-Ziganism back into the public discourse. A similiar situation, albeit in a different context, was created when the authoritarian state-socialist governments of eastern Europe fell and, particularily, when Yugoslavia fell apart. In this time of uncertainty, change and decay of established order, nationalist sentiments became dominant for the political consciousness of large parts of the populations of these countries. Again, the construction of national identity in these countries brought to the surface a lingering anti-Ziganism, which promptly moved to prove the particular perfidious ability of anti-Zigani stereotypes to realize themselves.
What this means is, that people that are generally regarded as dirty, unreliable thieves by the majority of a society will be pushed into conditions of homelessness and unemployment, with lack of personal hygiene and the eventual need to resort to petty crime to survive as a result. In practice, this may take the form of the simple refusal to rent out an apartement to a "Gypsy" out of fears they may wreck the place or not pay the rent, or the unwillingness to hire a "Gypsy" because they are perceived as lazy and criminal. These processes of mass-impoverishment were quite easily observed in Yugoslavia, where, during Titos rule, Sinti and Roma formed an, albeit less well educated than other parts of society, integrated population that was predominantly employed in manual heavy-industry jobs that taxed an expensive toll on the physical health of the workers, yet paid well for that reason within the state-socialist economy of Yugoslavia. With the collapse of Yugoslavia, within the scope of a few years, almost all Sinti and Roma were pushed to the lowest levels of society, often unemployed and homeless merely for the reason that society perceived that as their intrinsic nature.
The picture which "Die Weltwoche" used to illustrate their claims of Roma-gangs roving through Europe was meanwhile taken on a garbage dump in Kosovo - and depicts a boy playing with a plastic toy-gun, not some dangerous child-criminal.
A lot has been written about the current global economic crisis, but it seems hard to comprehend what exactly happened to cause this massive cave-in of the financial sector. This is especially difficult where comprehension is obscured by ideological preconceptions. But there is strong evidence to suggest that this is indeed not "just another crisis", that the last years mark a fundamental turning point for capitalism rather than a temporary damage that will be overcome by future growth. And most definitely, it is not the result of personal or political failures. This crisis was, sooner or later, inevitable.
To understand this we must emphasize that capitalism is a highly dynamic mode of production, the most vivid of all economic models that evolved within human societies just yet. The need to accumulate profit through the purchase of labor and the sale of products to the very same populations that produce them creates an imbalance. Profit withdraws parts of the established currency from circulation and releases it only if more profits are hoped to be generated through the investment. Capitalism, as a consequence, needs to expand constantly or it will begin to expropriate its own population as people have to continue to consume, yet are unable to consume in dimensions needed to keep all actors on the market afloat. And every bankruptcy would worsen the outlook of the economy as it comes tumbling down.
Capitalism needs to expand - and it did so with force and ingenuity. Its expansion was, for a long time, a geographic expansion. Wherever the antiquated economic classes of the past could be neither transformed nor integrated, developing capitalism removed them through force. Imperialism spanned the globe driven by the perpetual need to explore new markets, to integrate new consumers and laborers alike. Every expansion - not just by conquering territory, but by transforming the local economies into a monetary-based one integrated into the global market - added new momentum to the global market. Until there was nothing left to expand into. The economic crisis that struck the world in 1929 was no accident of history, it was the end of classical capitalism. Following the division of the world between imperialist powers, the inferno they unleashed upon the world during World War One was the result of the ideology used to justify capitalist expansion taking on a life of its own to most devastating effect. The demand created by the rebuilding after the war and the excessive spending by governments at war bought capitalism enough time to last despite the partial loss of the Russian market - though arguably, it wasn't a quite important market to begin with.
Unable to match production and consumption, industrial capital fled into digital sectors as it had always done. This was nothing new and had caused crisis before, but in the past, Capitalism had recovered by cutting losses, removing those capitalists unable to compete from the market and then move on, expanding into new markets, integrating new human labor and finding new sources of wealth. None of the crisis that came before that day needed a fundamental change in how Capitalism operated to be solved. Black Tuesday and its fallout that lasted till after World War 2 had ended, however, did simply because capitalism had explored all avenues of territorial expansion by then. It wasn't until the governments of the capitalist center adopted the teachings of British Economist Maynard Keynes that capitalism managed to cope with it, even outshine its former self. And that despite the partial removal of more countries from the capitalist sphere, only tentatively connected to the sphere of capital accumulation any longer. The Eastern Bloc wasn't fully removed from the market, but it couldn't possibly be called thoroughly integrated either.
Keynesianism struggled as early as the 80s, but the Neoliberal alternatives did not bring about as fundamental a change to capitalist administration as Keynes had done half a century before when breaking the taboo of deficit spending and inflation. It is very enlightening that the crisis of the 80s, which was at heart already a debt-crisis of selected nations, did mark the end of deficit spending at all. Public debt kept increasing, because it kept the economy afloat. It futhermore offers the individual nationstates in competition for investments in a globalized market the option of artificially improving the attractivity and motion of the domestic market for such investments by speculating on future gains. One country taking advantage of this tool can force more countries to do so as well, considering that losing the competition in the short run means losing it in the long run as well.
Capitalism was kept afloat by a renewed period of external expansion and the continued internal expansion despite crisis brought about by the instable nature of this policy. The Soviet Union fell and its markets returned to the global market in full. China tentatively opened its borders for the flow of goods and capital, growing to become the Nr.1 industrial location of the planet. It was a massive, expansive growth on the global market, but one that had to lead sooner or later to a crash of unforseen proportions. That the bubble burst was unavoidable, that is the nature of bubbles, and as far as that is concerned, no bourgeoise economist would disagree. What is really concerning is, that the bursting of this inflated growth in different regions of the world was followed by defaulting of public debt spiraling entire nations into ruin.
What we witness could be no less than the limit of capitalist growth, unable to expand its inflated economies any further without destabilizing the entire world through repeated breakdowns. The gamble had always been to make debt to incite the growth of the market to the point that future revenue would pay that debt. But the truth is: this debt has become a substantial part of the growth of markets to the point that it needs to be infused permanently to keep the accumulation of profit going and to make reinvestment of these proits attractive. Capitalism has reached its heat-barrier and its ideologues have no solution to offer.
It is revealing that the most popular options for dealing with the crisis are either a financial transaction tax - which is not so much a revolutionary change but rather a sign of a weakened state turning against the financial markets during a time of increased distribution battles. Taxes are wholly inadequate to adress the problem at hand, because they merely redistribute, but can not be a source of further capital to be accumulated. Another popular option is the utopian debate about a "capitalism without growth", popular with LOHAS and other petit-bourgeoise green voters. A nonsensical vision of people without the slightest understanding of capitalism.
The irony here is that we may indeed be headed towards a capitalism without growth, at least without total growth on a global scale. It is, however, not what neo-conservative romanticists imagine in their daydreams: a stable system that maintains a steady level of overall acceptable wealth. Because capital accumulation must continue for capital itself to survive, capitalism under such conditions will begin to cannibalize itself. Entire companies will fail in the harsher market environment, while the competition on the labor market will lead to a expropriation of large populations through wage cuts, inflation and social cuts. The state will appear as independent actor using its authority to add further fuel through cutting spending and introducing new taxes to deal with the instability created by its own debt and to come out atop in the fierce distribution battles. A pauperisation cycle that will be accompanied by a series of market crashes that occur in ever-shorter periods.
This is a grim vision of things that may come. The defaulting of entire economies, as we are anticipating in Greece right now and likely in other nations to follow once this domino gets knocked out, will not be a value-neutral downsizing. It will not be a step back in history so the wealth can be accumulated once again. The periodical defaulting of economies and resetting to a point where capitalism was still able to expand internally is impossible in an environment where competitors will always capitalize on the misfortune of other market actors to ensure their own survival and prosperity. Crisis never hits the population equally hard. There are winners and losers, if by merit of smart actions or mere dumb luck. Periodical defaulting of debts would not be a solution to the internal limitations of capitalism. It would in fact speed up the lopsided accumulation of capital without perspectives for lucrative reinvestment.
Chris Hedges fears that Black Block Anarchists may seek to destroy the Occupy movement, as he elaborates in a column he wrote for truthdig. Now, my readers may forgive me if my perspective is decidedly European in nature, but I nevertheless believe that such transcontinental exchange can benefit a debate. I'll begin by asking a rather heretical question:
What would be so bad about that?
As a movement, Occupy has achieved decidedly little compared to the excessive praise and attention that was given to it by media, authorities and the organized left. Especially the latter flocked to it in a vague hope for importance and the longing to be part of a mass movement, while college kids and businesspeople were united under a motto that was a naive as it was wrong: "We are the 99%" We are the amorphous mass, the many versus the few. Our will is the will of so many that there can not possibly be any argument against it. - Occupy is thoroughly populist in the worst meaning of the word. If Chris Hedges wants to look for mob mentality, he is ill advised to seek it amongst the Black Block.
Indeed, there have been rather disgusting pictures provided to us by the Occupy movement, including the repeated call to google "jewish billionaires". Implications of these placards were left to the reader, but it was clear that it was meant to express a supposed link between judaism and wealth and that, consequentially, the 1% that was to be opposed was the jews. It's too much of a reflex to discard these antisemitic stereotypes as mere "infiltration" by outsiders from the right. The very premise upon which Occupy began was not one of progressive anti-capitalism, but of a personalization of economic and power relationships, an analysis that implies that we merely need to remove part of society to change its ills: the ominous 1 percent who supposedly control the banks and ruin an otherwise productive economy out of moral vice.
Given this premise, that leans towards the reactionary, it was perhaps more of a surprise how much progressive politics nevertheless condensed within the broad Occupy movement. Oakland always stood out as a place of inspiration within a movement, that hoovered somewhere between a joke and a nightmarish vision of things to come wherever left to its own, or was marginalized by stronger, established movements wherever they existed and decided to operate under the label of Occupy.
To give an example for each of these developements: the German cities of Hamburg and Berlin had attempts at Occupy camps of their own, which attracted a lukewarm response by the deeply rooted autonomist movement in these cities. Organized groups of the left quickly turned away their attention towards their usual fields of activity - currently mainly fights against gentrification and a general lack of housing - while Occupy crumbled in these cities to the point that there was no camp in Hamburg and the one in Berlin consisted of a whooping ten (!) people upon its eviction. Who nevertheless weren't too ashamed of using the 99% slogan nonetheless.
Occupy in Rome coincided with a time of protests against Berlusconi in general and the social cuts of his government in specific. The international events around Occupy arguably gave the demonstration additional momentum, but the actors remained the ones that had been in the center of social protests for not merely the past months, but years, the continuity of their work giving them credibility and a powerbase. Consequentially, the protests were big, but short and overshadowed by the usual arguments and differences between the participating groups. The different goals of parliamentary groups, orthodox marxists, single-goal movements and autonomist radicals could not be brought in accordance. Occupy was washed away by the usual debates and could not provide any insight or unifying factor.
I have not heard, read or seen anything about Occupy in Greece, the hotbed of revolutionary activity in Europe. It's not surprising either, since the disenfranchised as well as the frightened middle class are already organized within their individual political leanings. The situation in the country is so thoroughly heated that no one could ignore it at that point and not make a decision as to where he or she stands.
In the US, meanwhile, it was Oakland where Occupy met an established and locally rooted radical left movement and the fruits of years of political labor quickly found their way into the local offspring of the global movement. It made Oakland the most sympathetic of all Occupy sections. When Chris Hedges claims that the Anarchists of Oakland loathe organization, he is confusing organization with institutionalization. Yes, these Anarchists loathe the rigid structures of parties or Leninist cadre-groups and political sects. But it is naive to assume they could rally people, influence debates or initiate direct action without some form of organization. However, since it is an informal, sporadic organization, often overlapping with personal relationships and built upon strong bonds of trust, it is hard to detect the connections amongst the groups and individuals that appear as a Black Bloc during the protests. In this, we may forgive Chris Hedges. Even national intelligence agencies purposefully directing their work towards infiltrating and uncovering these structures have often found it impossible to do so. For a militant and radically anti-state movement, the rejection of formal institutions has proven to be a rather effective protection from repression.
The involvement of the local Anarchists in Oakland had benefits that are quick to evade the eye, yet become all the clearer if we compare Oakland to New York in selected occurences. Whereas Occupy in New York rallied its activists to the banking district - expressing the fundamentally flawed seperation between a good, productive industrial capital and a bad, greedy banker capital supposedly destroying an otherwise flawless society - Oakland rallied to the port, a vital nexus of capitalist distribution and a place far removed from the false dichotomy that was established when the call was made to occupy Wall Street. Whereas in New York, evictions and foreclosures of homes were mere cause to stand by idle and give yourself the good feeling of having at least done "something" - when in reality, nothing has changed and the brutal violence of business as usual proceeded uninterrupted - Oakland rallies to actually prevent these. Whereas, following the eviction of camps, New Yorks goal was to occupy a building for a party, Oakland sought to occupy it for permanent use as social center.
Not that there were no uplifting or progressive elements in other american cities, such as the commendable work of the Anarchist Black Cross in NY, nor that Oakland did not have its own flaws. But the spirit of Oakland has been taken into another direction. It is Chris Hedges most fundamental error that he is unable to see these fine details and his seemingly only desire is to be as many as possible with as white a coat as possible. Occupy is turned into a laundry for the bad conscience of the middle class or, perhaps a speculation that's a lot darker, the place where the middle class can go to demand back the status quo and mourn the material losses they've had to endure in the crisis. A giant tribunal on the profiteers of a specific phase of capitalism by those who were nowhere as lucky, but not a trial on capitalism itself.
After all, the petit-bourgeoise staunchly believes: if I worked hard and nonetheless the American Dream did not come true for me, then SOMEONE must be responsible. That crisis and expropration and poverty are intrinsic elements of capitalism is unthinkable to these characters. Conversely, Occupy had little to offer to those who had been poor to begin with, those who had been disenfranchised by society, evicted from their homes, pushed to the end of the welfare lines long before the stock markets collapsed. This movement can repeat its mantra of being 99% all they want - a tent-town full of people more concerned with the media reception rather than their actual achievements will do little to convince them of their goals.
Speaking of goals - what goals? Occupy has evaded this question time and time again and even a Slavoj Žižek can not honor this stance by attributing a revolutionary purpose of non-conformity to it. Occupies silence is a mere expression of its inability to formulate any form of common stance in between its broad membership that includes the strangest of Trotzkyte sects full of themselves and their delusions of being able to steer the movement, or the freaks from Zeitgeist and their visions of an authoritarian technocracy, not to forget the antisemites and the tourists, who merely want a good story to brag about during college. Trying to formulate a common stance would, indeed, blow Occupy apart - and Occupy has long lost its purpose and become one on itself. The movement is everything, the movement is holy, whoever voices criticism is shut down. The so called "People's Mic" does an excellent job at this. Initially a way to bypass a ban on megaphones, this little tool has been blown so out of proportions by Occupy-activists seemingly proud to finally have made a genuinely independent invention (the idea to occupy public spaces was, after all, taken from the Spanish "Indignados") that it had to be applied to uses it was not fit for. Debates with a Peoples Mic are impossible to follow, critical voices are often not carried on by the crowd and the experience of a peoples' mic has been described as "indoctrinating" more than once. Repeat the words, don't think about them.
As I mentioned, Occupy has little to offer to the working poor and the declassed. It is a movement of the middle class and their fear of no longer having the place they were once promised in the social contract of America. Perhaps that's why Chris Hedges decries, with honest indignation, that the Black Bloc "smashed the windows of a locally owned coffee shop in November in Oakland and looted it." One can only wonder why it was important to mention this shop was "locally owned". Hedges already draws a line between different enterpreneurs, dividing their business into good (because "local") and bad (because "foreign") to which my only reply can be to shake my head in disbelief as to this notion that apparently, capitalism gets better if it is done by people from the same town.
Gold, however, Chris Hedges struck in this utterly hilarious notion that the Black Block was "criminal".
The holy law, meanwhile, is always upheld by the good people of Occupy and all it takes for a revolution, at least according to Hedges, is to nevertheless get beaten up by cops. Who are also part of the 99%. But do so because Occupy threatens the injust system. By not being criminals. Not only does this show an understanding of state and society that the progressive left, one would expect, had left behind in the 19th century - one where the state rules solely by authority of force and something like cultural hegemony is non-existant. (to which I merely would like to point Chris Hedges to comments on police brutality that cheer on the pepperspraying of the explicitely non-violent "smelly hippies".) It is also a pretty hilarious thought that the bankers and government officials would have sat in their office upon hearing of the arrest of some protestors in a minor march, then call them to order the pepperspraying of the detained "because they are such a threat." Finally, Chris Hedges also expresses his own fundamentally petit-bourgeoise thinking when he implies that the Black Block is somehow consisting of outsiders, people not actually part of the Occupy movement and, most notably, Agent Provocateurs. It is the same sentiment that people in the suburbs express whenever a crime occurs within their midst. Someone from outside must have done it! Some alien, some stranger.
Indeed, the looting of a store, this spontaneous seizing of opportunity for the sake of direct gain from an act that defies law and property, has more revolutionary pontential than most of what Occupy has achieved elsewhere. It has actual, positive effects for the actors involved. It is an act of redistribution and empowerment that bypasses the need for years of tiresome campaigning and reforming within a fundamentally flawed system and against the rising tide of objective necessities immanent to capitalism itself. It is the implosion of structural violence that chains people to their place in society and releases them into a spontaneous moment of opportunity.
Chris Hedges is not all wrong, though. Militarist and sexist tendencies and implications are an important point of critique that ought to be debated - not just once, but permanently - within the Anarchist, no, within the general left movement. A debate on militance should be the permanent standard of a radical left. Militance can not justify itself and I'm not particularily fond of an insurrectionism that puts the insurrection itself into the focus of attention, rather than concrete political goals. But they aren't the core of militance, not the fundamental truth behind the acts of self-defense against a violence that sometimes appears direct, in the shape of a police baton, and sometimes indirect, in the silent threat of poverty, unemployment, disenfranchisement. What Chris Hedges is asking of these people is not to defend themselves, to bear the stroke of the baton, the burn of the pepperspray, the sting of the taser and the impact of the rubberbullet for a vague promise that sometime then, people will realize that Occupy was right all along! (but about what, exactly?) That even the police will come down, reach them their hands and say "yes, non-violence is the way". A thought that is even more absurd when considering that the police has to utilize violence every day, has internalized the logic of violence and has put aside their conscience to enforce a law that's necessarily impersonal and demanding strict adherence regardless of personal opinion. Even more absurd to think a greater amount of officers would break with this logic, with their jobs, in a time where having a job in the first place is a blessing in itself.
This debate, I think, is far from over. There are many points that still need to be raised, many of which need to be discussed in more detail. However, Occupy, that much is clear, needs to transcend its own beginnings, its own premise and own established institutions if it wants to progress. Refusal to do so out of sentimentality for a project that granted a shortlived time of optimism will lead to the death of Occupy as a project, whether wanted or not.
As protests against the ACTA treaty gain increasing public attention, the complete lack of a critical understanding of the matter of so called internet piracy by many of the actors of the protest becomes painfully obvious.
There can be little doubt that the protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ("ACTA") are largely motivated by a diffuse fear of persecution for filesharing - perhaps the most common crime of the present day - or at least a dedication to maintaining the ability to copy music, movies, art , books and software without a valid fear of reprisals. Evidence to this is not merely subjective perception, but both public appearance of the protestors (including a youtube video protesting ACTA by depicting German special forces hunting down filesharers in a most gruesome manner - a video that was later linked on the website of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by the web-group Anitsec) and, perhaps more importantly, the context of ACTA and its protests. It is revealing that the public statements generated by the crackdown on megaupload are almost identical to the ones expressing their fear from ACTA.
Alas, in the real world of respectable politics, few would march the streets demanding the government to respect their right to make unlicensed copies as they please. For a succesful protest that desires to be heard by the state - and the scope of these protests does not go beyond appealing to political decision makers - the demands must be articulated within the existing framework of politics. That means within the framework of private property. Instead of the free access to culture, the ACTA protestors instead challenge an idealized view on parliamentary politics, imagining their civil rights to be threatened by ACTA and phantasizing about a sinister "spirit" of the agreement. That the argumentation reaches the realm of the mythical at this point is not mere coincidence, but rather an expression of the shallow nature of their reasoning. It is, after all, a mere front to ideologically mask their fundamentally economic desire and hide the underlying, very fundamental conflict.
A fundamental conflict indeed - and one that can not be resolved within the logic of a capitalist system. The desire, no, need of the music/movie/software business to reap a profit from their economic activity conflicts with the desire of the consumer to pay as little as possible. That is, after all, the sole motivation behind a companies existence in the first place and failure to do so would mean imminent death for these economic actors, as capital would flow to profitable avenues of business. Technological progress has made the multiplication and distribution of these products - movies, music, books etc. - an almost effortless endeavour. Sure, to record a song you still need to account for the work of the musician, the time he spent writing the song, the time needed to record it, plus all the effort that went into the production of the equipment necessary to produce it. But once that has been done, the labor condensed within this music is distributed on a technically infinite amount of goods - copies of the song - with merely the effort of a mouseclick. The trade-value of a song is distributed on so many copies, that even a single cent would be a horrible ripoff. While there is still labor condensed within the product, it has split into mere trace amounts, impossible to quantify even with the approximate tools of the market - supply and demand.
What's more, the means of production in this sector have become commonly available. Once the song/movie/book is out there in the public, anyone with so much as a computer can reproduce it. There is no need for a massive capital investment to begin production of these copies, nor does quality suffer from the tools available to classes usually without ownership of means of production. It should be little surprising at this point that internet "piracy" is a mass phenomena. It's an economically sound practice from the perspective of the consumer and not only does it take less effort than going to the store to buy e.g. a CD - it is even less effort than registering on iTunes and arranging for the payment.
It is nevertheless utterly unsurprising that there is little empathy for the actions of filesharers by the challengers of market freedom. This can not be explained solely by the threat to profits of the affected companies this poses - at this point it may be worth noting how utterly ridiculous complaints about "backroom deals" and "lobbyism" in the context of ACTA are. As if there had ever been legislature in bourgeoise democracies that was not influenced by interest groups. As if this wasn't the very fundamental modus operandi of parliaments in the first place!
No, the idea that ACTA compromises an otherwise acceptable status quo is at the very least an appalling lack of critical thinking. The historical precedent to ACTA are copyright laws and patents. Let's repeat that. The historical precedent to ACTA are copyright laws and patents. They enforce a claim on an immaterial good through the authority of the state and tax anyone who utilizes the thoughts of another person for his or her own production. It is important to understand at this point that, within a capitalist environment, purely theoretical products (inventions, stories, ideas etc.) have NO VALUE. To avoid misunderstandings, I am talking value here in the sense of trade-value. Sure, the invention of the wheel (yes, it predates capitalist societies, but it is an easy example) was of great use to humanity, but once the idea was out there, anyone with at least a little bit of eyesight could easily figure out how to copy it. Maybe it took the inventor hundreds of hours of intensive thinking, of intellectual work to come up with the idea - but this effort did not translate into an income, nor did it appear in any way within the finished wheels. Those were worth as much as it took on average to produce them in terms of human labor - not how much it took to >invent< them.
Perhaps it stands to reason that those within this sphere of intellectual labor are so steadfast to defend their own monopolies. The spread of digital technology has, after all, created a situation where it is increasingly difficult to enforce the foundation upon which their entire economic existence has been built. Increased repression is one side of the coin, the other is the creation of an ideological stigma (sometimes less succesful as the infamous "you wouldn't download a car" campaign shows) for filesharers. Some of these stigmatization attempts are quite blunt, but many are more subtle, creeping and surely not introduced into the general public through a nefarious plot by the cultural industry (this article wouldn't be complete if I did not at least mention the possibility of antisemitic stereotypes associated with such an idea of a business conspiracy) but rather individual developements, sometimes in direct defiance of the cultural industry - as if to prove that they were wrong about the threat that filesharing poses to the economic survival of artists as independent actors on the market.
These tropes are little more than stalwart reinforcements of market logic. Everything must have a price, everything must be traded on the global market, everything must reap a revenue. Support the artist! Anyone can afford it! Most propagandists of this ideology are probably not even aware of the implicit harassment of those who, in fact, can't. They are perhaps not overly present in the public - and shaming them into silence is part of the reason for this - but there is an undeniably large strata even within western society who has to watch out for every little expense. And this strate is growing.
Perhaps the people protesting ACTA would be well advised to not waste their time appealing to the government - any success reached this way can only be a superficial one. The need to maintain the ability to capitalize on intellectual labor is too urgent as long as we operate in a capitalist system. Developing and providing tools for the masses to evade state attempts to repress the unhindered multiplication of cultural wealth may have a more lasting effect in the long run.