Fight Socialism

How American Neo-Liberals lie to their People

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

I once wondered why so many US media outlets, in concert with especially right-wing politicians, almost exclusively use the empty phrase “former communist East Germany” whenever the defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR) is mentioned. It’s misleading because it’s historically wrong – and I think the commenters know that very well in most cases. A fear-mongering is deliberately staged in order to drum into people’s heads over and over again a phrase about a social system that, according to a widespread American understanding, only compares to hell. In truth – and I say this as a contemporary witness – this communism did not exist on German soil at any time.

For in communism, by definition, neither money nor private property exists. Fact is we had both; money in most cases even in abundance – only you couldn’t do much with it. That’s because basic needs in the GDR – housing, food, medical care – were guaranteed by state order and dirt cheap, and spending on big extras was almost impossible because those extras most of the time simply didn’t exist. Generally, the GDR-customer had to wait up to 15 years after registering for a new car, and when the first Soviet-made color televisions became available in the early 1980s, they cost around 6,000 GDR marks. The average wage of a skilled worker at that time was 800 to 900 marks, and I paid 66 marks monthly for a two-room rental apartment of very good quality. A beer in the pub (0.5 liters equal to 0.13 gallons) cost 0.40 and 0.51 marks; for a loaf of mixed rye bread (1.65 pounds), fresh and delicious from the bakery, the price was 0.93 marks.

I remember a student – we were still children – asking our teacher how shopping without money could work under communism and in general. The teacher’s answer: In communism, everyone is considerate of others and therefore only puts as much in the shopping cart as he needs for himself – no more. He does not have to pay for it, because there is no money. – My school friend Bernd spoke up, his index finger raised far above his head, and he was excited: “That can’t work. My father would lug all the beer out of the store, right down to the last bottle, if he didn’t even have to pay for it.”

Communism was to be the final stage of fulfillment of all desires and dreams, while socialism is only the penultimate step to pave the way. But Socialism didn’t work out well in the GDR either. This is because the idea of socialism requires that the means of production are not in private hands, but in the hands of the state. I have personally worked and lived in this state-controlled economy that did not allow personal innovation in the first place. Of course, such a command economy with hardly anyone interested in progress cannot function in an effective manner. Apart from subsidized basic supplies for the people, the economy in the GDR was an economy of scarcity; a condition that worsened especially in the 1980s.

Many years later, I worked for the largest private employer in the United States of America, a retailer named “Walmart.” That’s when I went from the frying pan into the fire – so to speak. Although there was a lot more to buy at Walmart than in “communist East Germany” back then, most of my American colleagues barely had any extra money available and often couldn’t make it from payday to payday without relying on government handouts. There was no legal protection for workers either; instead, they were subjected to arbitrariness of a kind not seen even in the supposed communism of East Germany. It is true that in the GDR was no freedom of travel, and also no freedom of expression without taking the risk of serious consequences, especially when the remarks were of critical political nature – consequences relatively harmlessly described by the term “reprisals.” But also at Walmart I witnessed blatant threats by management against young employees during a meeting: ‘Be very careful what you say about the company publicly, including in your spare time and via Facebook. Be careful what you write about Walmart. There could be consequences for you, up to and including termination.’

Maybe they will come after me now when they read the truth about themselves and what I and others have witnessed. Land of the free … What I heard and saw opened my ears and eyes to how little American corporatocracy seemed to differ from socialist despotism, except that no one could lose their job in the GDR workforce. The right to a job was codified in the command economy system.

During those eight years with the corporation, I have often wondered why Americans accepted in such a docile way their fate of low wages while being treated like second class people. I had to go back to 1997 in my research to find an even halfway, yet not very satisfactory answer, provided by no less a figure than Alan Greenspan. The American economist, who served five terms from 1987 to 2006 as chair of the Federal Reserve, warned in his testimony about the performance of the US economy in front of the Joint Economic Committee: “Job insecurity cannot suppress wage growth indefinitely. Clearly, there is a limit to how long workers will remain willing to accept smaller increases in living standards in exchange for additional job security.”***

And yet, he was probably not quite correct at the time – or the situation had changed over the years and was subject to regional differences. When I was working for Walmart, people were literally toiling for barely more than a starvation wage, while the corporate family of roughly two dozen made 30 billion in profit per year, almost untroubled from any significant legal regulation in favor of the workers. Now and then a grumble could be heard behind held hands, but I never saw a potential for more. If they were afraid to make demands for better conditions from their employers for reasons of Job security, then the high labor turnover rate I witnessed didn’t fit the picture. At Walmart, there was a constant coming and going – employees often simply didn’t show up at the store the very next day. After three or four years, I realized I was one of the “longest-serving” of the 90 or so employees in the store.

Contrary to Greenspan’s thesis, my colleagues gave me the impression that they could do nothing to change the unjust conditions. They seemed to accept their situation with drastic cuts in their rights rather as a “God-given” fact. These are dire realizations, especially from younger people who supposedly lived in a country of freedom and liberty.

Those who have to live constantly in existential dilemmas through no fault of their own can hardly feel any sense of freedom. They worked in a lawless space, and there was no real legal representation of workers’ interests. No one dared to even utter the word “trade union.” Unions in the US, of course, also smack of socialism – again, an argument as intentionally scattered as it is nonsensical. In this context, American history tells a different story: The first American president to openly side with unions was Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt – not a Socialist, but a Republican, as we know. The man knew what hardly anyone in the US seems to know today: membership in a union representing the interests of the vulnerable is one of the fundamental rights of a truly free and democratic social order. An upper class that does not have to disguise its actions will have no problem recognizing this basic right. Only in a system that systematically represses a large part of its own population while wanting to remain undisturbed is there a deliberate intention to nip in the bud views that run counter to corporate interests.

This gives rise to the profound suspicion that the United States of America is anything but a free country, for the majority of its populace is in various forms subjected to neoliberalism, which restricts social services, gives excessive power to corporations, enables political corruption without legal intervention, and exacerbates economic inequality. In this way, social division in the US has become more and more pronounced, thereby further undermining the old American creed of freedom and equality.

Consequently, those trying to identify the true forces in the US suppressing American basic rights and liberties, will have to look at the domestic corporatocracy and its propaganda aids, the corporate media – led by outlets like Fox News, which CNN and others are currently somewhat behind in misleading the people. Most media outlets systematically distort and suppress reality to serve big business in the US, which provides these media with advertising spots worth billions of dollars. It’s about purchased opinion, ratings and against everything that could spoil the business. It is the profit interest of a few to the detriment of the many.

Right-wing ideologues like to use the specter of socialism in the most primitive way to distract attention from the real culprits of the problems in their country and to make their own political mark. And masses of Americans are falling for it in rows. Socialism as a bogeyman is cited as often as possible, if necessary even in the distant past of the former “communist East Germany”, although rather unknown to most Americans. Yet, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is particularly fond of invoking my nation when it comes to spreading delusions of an impending red tide in America, made up of “radical leftists.” At the same time, the man can’t be so stupid as to believe his own words – he just seems confident in his ability to dumb down his compatriots, since they obviously don’t know too much. If he doesn’t feel that way about them – then why is he telling all this easily disprovable nonsense? What he has to say about Germany in general is historically sheer baloney and can be refuted with a minimum of knowledge. Nevertheless, he does not seem to care what truth is and what nuisance – and neither obviously do those who manage to vote for him.

Are these people entrusting their future to such demagogues still in their right minds? What – to cite just two current examples – does a compulsory mask regulation in the midst of a worldwide pandemic or a vaccine have to do with socialism?

In the USA, neither socialism nor anything else is in sight to oust the prevailing neoliberal system. Those who should have a particularly guilty conscience throw around terms like socialism or communism for the sole purpose to keep people in line and stir up fears about an ideology that is considered un-American anyway. And rest assured: even those confounded Democrats who barely mention Socialism by its name – Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, or Chuck Schumer – are more afraid of socialism than the devil is of holy water. Why? Because they get their billions from one and the same source as their Republican counterparts: The Corporatocracy.

They can fight each other in public as much as they want. How does an ancient German proverb say? “When it really comes down to it, one crow doesn’t peck out another’s eye.”

Or have you ever seen a different version yet?

Notes:

*** Source: Testimony of Chairman Alan Greenspan, Performance of the U.S. economy,
Joint Economic Committee, United States Congress, March 20, 1997. Available in the Internet at FRB: Testimony, Greenspan — Performance of the U.S. economy — March 20, 1997 (federalreserve.gov)

Get Vaccinated

From My Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

Very rarely do people in Union County, Georgia, get to read anything sophisticated stemming from local sources. Everything is apparently strikingly fine-tuned within the unwritten norms of a buddy system stuck in old habits. But every now and then, the reader is amazed at the rationality of a published opinion, as happened recently in an otherwise rather dull weekly newspaper.

It is a letter to the editor from a health expert who, in very simple but all the more forceful terms, urges previously vaccine-averse people in a somewhat backward area to get vaccinated against Covid. Seldom before have I read anything more sensible on a local level in this area, where I have now lived for ten years.

The expert rightly points out in his brief op-ed the extremely tense situation in local hospitals, caused by the Delta variant, stating that “Covid is exploding in our area.” He urgently appeals to the population not to believe the circulating scare stories about the vaccine including conspiracy theories and instead to get vaccinated.

There is really not much to add – except something that no one obviously wants to hear: If there are indeed people who believe in all possible nonsense and only not in what is rational, then the insightful have a democratic*** right to be protected from them. After all, every drunk driver must rightly expect severe punishment for endangering the lives of others.

Those who not only refuse to contribute to the protection of society in a pandemic, but, on the contrary, deliberately endanger others, should face consequences that affect their daily lives in public locations. A constraint? Of course, for no one has the right to put the lives and health of others at risk. And if these visionary hillbillies can’t put one and one together, they should at least think about the unvaccinated children.

Unfortunately, far too many “officials” in Union County have also failed in their responsibilities by allowing themselves to be obviously exploited for political purposes rather than standing up to unreason. This is especially true for the local school authorities, for they could all foresee what would happen without mandatory masks in the schools.

Note:***For some, a little explanation may be necessary at this point. “Democratic” in the proper sense does not refer to the Democratic Party (of which the author of these lines is not a supporter, by the way), but to the basic principles of democracy.

An Almost Collective Failure

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

Once again the compassionate, everything and everyone understanding citizen of the world spoke to his people.

The American president’s pithy remarks yesterday are surprising, because just a few days ago he sounded quite different. But it is he who is largely responsible for the chaos at Kabul airport.

It is amazing how the American pattern repeats itself over and over again. After the deaths of 13 soldiers, Joe Biden found words that have become standard in this country – it is what most Americans want to hear, although the supporters of the right-wing spectrum may not believe this president on this point. Because many of them falsely believe that it was he who screwed things up in Afghanistan. Yet, Biden “merely” handled the exit to another American tragedy in an incompetent manner that could hardly have been worse.

As recently as July 8, he had responded to a reporter’s question by saying that it is “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would overrun the entire country. This had proven how out of touch he was with reality. He was clueless about the historical realities in Afghanistan, which a president before him had already thrown to the wind: George W. Bush, the man leading an administration actually responsible for what we see today.

To a certain extent, however, responsible are also the millions of Americans who fell for primitive slogans 20 years ago and who, with their consent, supported the American adventure in Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of freedom and thus made it possible in the first place.

From this point of view, it is eminently notable that the crusade ends under the same slogan from the mouth of an American president with which it began in 2001: “We will hunt them down.”

Dangerous Mixture

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

The remaining Republican constituency, however numerous, has solidified into an unsocialzed, deluded bunch over a laughingstock like Trump: His followers are filled with a pathetic, populist mindset camouflaged as patriotism, fed by fabricated catchphrases that even the mentally deficient can easily memorize and then parrot as the familiar bird can.

Thematically, most can hardly produce anything coherent from their own thoughts that would make any sense to support their views. Apart from repeating propaganda platitudes, they do not provide any answers to problems that exist in reality. An own fact check with appropriate background knowledge does not take place, because the mental energy is missing and often probably also an honest intention.

It is frightening to observe how much this propaganda-pushed mentality is becoming entrenched in other developed countries as well – but nowhere else as intensively as in the USA. Trump embodies the intellectual decay of much of American society.

There is no end in sight to the dangerous blend of misinformation, lies, conspiracy theories, not-knowing, misdirection, and delusion. For there are millions of people who blindly believe every claim, no matter how abstruse, as long as it only corresponds to their own paranoid fantasies.

Work Ethic is Dying?

It doesn’t get any more cynical than this

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

See the image below:

This person unknown to me is much better than I am at expressing the American problem in a few simple words. The irrefutable facts he mentions apply to more than half of the US-population with rising tendency, even though the wealth in this country exists to provide remedies that would benefit the society as a whole. To deny this would mean to dispute reality. I’ve been there, I’ve worked at Walmart for eight years, with great difficulty trusting my eyes and ears and at the same time knowing that I’m in the United States of America, which (almost) everyone in Europe considers the leading country in the world.

It should not go unmentioned who pays for said food stamps. Not Walmart, not Corporate America, who are shirking their responsibility because they cannot get enough down their greedy throat. It’s the common taxpayer, you and me, which makes it doubly outrageous. This is how Americans in their own country are being cheated good and proper, and they’re letting it happen to them.

Of course, politicians have a moral obligation to intervene through regulation in the interest of the common good. Multi-billion corporations should pay their employees decent wages, so that no public tax money has to be spent on food stamps. Ration cards came into use elsewhere in post-war times – not at all in the 21st century.

And where are the Churches? Here all of a sudden, where it is about the real, earthly problems of the little man, they do not interfere in politics – that is very strange. Are they afraid of having to pay taxes like their flock of sheep, so that their hypocritical business will no longer yield enough profit? You don’t have to open your eyes too wide to see how representatives of politics and the clergy work together hand in hand to play the little man for a sucker and line their own pockets. This is arranged to keep the masses in line.

After all, one crow does not peck out the eye of another. Amen.

Calling for more Violence

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

In light of recent developments, the likelihood of an increase in politically motivated violence in the United States is becoming more and more realistic. The refusal of the predominantly Republican members of parliament to set up a commission of inquiry into the events of January 6 is clear evidence that large sections of them are prepared to at least approvingly accept violence even against state institutions and the security agencies that protect them. This is unprecedented in a constitutional democracy.

A bipartisan investigation could also have provided final clarity and evidence on the political background comprising the mob that invaded the Capitol on January 6. Reportedly, more than half of Republican supporters believe that Antifa was behind it as well as other radical left-wing groups, organized by Democrats to “make Trump look bad.” This statement is of course absurd, if only because there is no significant radical left group in the U.S. organizationally and logistically able to plan and implement an action of such magnitude as the capture of the parliamentary seat in Washington D.C. The assertion is one of the usual catchphrases coming from the right-wing political camp, whereby the senders know only too well how unlikely it is that any of the Trump supporters would be able to explain impromptu what Antifa actually means, not to mention the historical context.

The delaying tactics of officials who are responsible for their country and were elected to serve law and justice, sends a pernicious and dangerous signal to the American public because it de facto normalizes violence as a means to achieve political objectives.

What halfway sound person can seriously want that for his or her country? It should be readily apparent how little such an approach can serve the good of the United States.

This is the true consequence of the fact that someone like Donald J. Trump could become president in this country. And there are too many leaders in the Republican Party who will not stop the further courting of an insane man. The question is at which point on the priority list is the interest of their country.

The Grand Old Party, if it indeed remains on this path, will continue to cultivate the crazy, so they can get elected by the crazy. Are there really so many ideologically blinded, pretended patriots in this country who are unable to put one and one together?

Twisted Talent: DeSantis for President

The Man who invented Germany in the Middle Ages

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

Ron DeSantis is an especially known interpretative twister of facts – obvious at least for those who scrutinize his claims -; and he is somebody who has been talking after Trump’s mouth. He is not bothered by any nonsense he utters because he knows that his willing audience will accept anything.

But maybe someone should give him some private lessons in history, because when he tells a certain story with a religious tinge of the three masons “in Germany in medieval times”, all his ignorance comes through.

True, it’s a brilliant story he’s spinning – but unfortunately with a little flaw: For in the times of the Middle Ages, not only did Germany not exist, neither as a country nor as a unified nation – hardly anyone would have known what to do with the term “Germany” up to the 15th century. DeSantis, however, seems to like Germany, because he mentions the country quite often – unfortunately never in a logical context.

With this in mind: What kind of political leaders are these – in this case an acting governor in Florida – who open their mouths and don’t know what they are talking about? Before one speaks, one should know.

Probably this figure also wants to become the next president of the United States of America.

Remark: The first German nation-state was proclaimed on 18 January, 1871, in Versailles; its founder was the Prussian Prime Minister and subsequent Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The “Germany” to which DeSantis wishes to refer was, from the 9th century onward, called the “Holy Roman Empire”, later of German Nation – a loose, often obscure association of kingdoms, counties, duchies, numbering 330 in the 18th century and often in enmity with each other. For a long time, Austria-Habsburg was the leading power. – This political entity came to an end only late – in 1806 with the Prussian defeat by Napoleon.

Germany: Conservatives Choose Candidate for Chancellor

…but the next person in charge could be a woman again

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

It was obvious that the CDU Federal Executive Board last weekend would push through its own party colleague and not the man from the sister party, the Bavarian CSU. After all, there are many members on the board with their own ambitions for power. The meeting, the outcome of which was a foregone conclusion, had been more or less arranged to ensure Bavaria’s popular Minister President Markus Soeder (CSU) a face-saving retreat.

At the CDU base, the mood probably looks a bit more honest: Most of the regular party members would have preferred Soeder as their candidate for chancellor, and with him the conservatives would probably have a better chance winning the upcoming federal elections this September. Now, the two-party-Union consisting of CDU and CSU (the latter exists only in the Free State of Bavaria) is in for a payday for playing a lousy power game: For it would be a surprise if Germany’s next chancellor is to be the far less popular Armin Laschet.

Instead, after Angela Merkel’s retirement this coming September, it might well come down to a female chancellor once again, as the Green Party is at a polling high and could emerge as the strongest party nationwide for the first time. Consequently, for the first time in their history, they are competing with their own candidate for chancellor. The party leadership has recently decided on the 40-year-old, resolute Annalena Baerbock without any further ado – quite in contrast to the grueling, pernicious power struggle in the conservative CDU/CSU.

Although many experts fear negative economic consequences in the event of a Green government takeover, it must be borne in mind that there will hardly be an absolute majority possible for just one party in Germany. In that sense, it is almost certain that the country will continue to be governed by a multi-party coalition, maybe even with the conservatives as junior-partner involved. Such government naturally operates on the basis of compromise. But even in this scenario, the Greens can give priority to their dominant issue, climate protection – supported by the broad public opinion that climate change is caused by humans and must be urgently counteracted; a view held also across all political camps with the exception of the polarizing and in parts extreme right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

It feels like the next generation is already knocking on the door in my home country to take on top political responsibility. Approval for this seems to come from almost all camps. 30 years ago, when I was a city commissioner for the CDU in my little hometown of Wolmirstedt, the party book still played a dominant role. But in the historically short time that has passed since then, the whole world has changed dizzyingly. As a consequence, thinking between party lines has become more and more mixed, out of the need to solve increasingly complex problems together – not only across parties, but also across countries. The Coronavirus is only the most prominent example of many.

Although there is still a lot of water to flow down the Rhine before Germany’s election in September, I can very well imagine the next woman in the German chancellorship. And why not? Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, especially New Zealand – all these countries have relatively young women at the head of their governments, and they almost all do well with it. Above all, Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister of New Zealand does an excellent, refreshing job – almost completely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

So, in Germany it could be Annalena. Let her do it.

Nothing Changes

As long as Firearms circulate in the U.S., Mass Murder will continue

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

What are stricter gun laws supposed to accomplish? Weapons are in circulation in the USA like toothbrushes. On that note, any restriction of certain types of weapons will not solve the deadly problem – unless the rate of fire leads to the macabre conclusion that the Boulder murderer merely would have had enough time to shoot “only” five people instead of ten.

Only a single, unambiguous and uninterpretable law could at least curtail these acts – an absolute ban on firearms to tackle the profusion of any kind of guns in private hands. But such a common sense step will never happen in a country with a culture of shooting and killing, framed as a fundamental right to self-defense – not even in the light of supposed Christianity and the unspeakable suffering of victims and their relatives.

There is no other modern western country where people shoot each other to such an extent as in the United States. This is not related to the reasonableness of the people in other civilized parts of the world, but rather to the existing legal order. If something is found to be wrong, then a government must implement laws that at least provide relief. That is what a democratically elected parliament and the executive authority are for. These mass killings in the USA are not only gruesome – they are also an expression of an all too liberal, flawed system of justice.

Yet, President Biden once again wants to regulate firearms ownership more strictly, including certain types of guns, but this sounds more like an act of stalling perplexity. Someone who intends to go to a shopping mall to shoot people has very likely finished with himself and the rest of the world; in any case, he will no longer be bothered by any restrictive laws. Much less will he have trouble getting a gun in the U.S., even if he has failed every background check.

Nearly unbridled support for the weapons insanity also arrives from the same side, which later officially laments the victims: There are public backyard areas in the U.S. where elected officials in neighborhoods with pure poverty not only spend vast sums of tax money on a shooting range, but seriously agree to demands that their county should be declared a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” Any attempt to convince people with such a disrupted mindset of the opposite is likely to be in vain.

Some particularly highly intelligent people manage to argue as follows: It is not the gun that kills, but the person who handles it. This eminently remarkable view is as ingenious as it is undoubtedly correct. For the very same reason, firearms do not belong in private hands – particularly not in a country in which an obviously not insignificant ratio of the population exhibits mental deficits.

But, nothing will change to prevent the gruesome consequences of gun insanity in the future. The lobby of profit-seeking gun advocates, like the National Rifle Association (NRA), is too powerful. Human life, on the other hand, does not count. As long as that doesn’t change, it will be the same as always.

And thus, when the almost routine horror and grief have given way to everyday life, it will continue as before and straight on to the next massacre. And the blather of tougher gun laws will erupt again.

It almost looks like a calculated strategy.

America is Black and White, with a Lot in Between

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2021 by Uwe Bahr

I was very impressed because it was perfectly organized, and I would like to express my gratitude to Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security for their overseeing assistance, to the state agencies, including the Georgia National Guard, State Patrol, and the many Healthcare workers. They all ensure that the free Corona mass immunizations in Clarkesville/Georgia run smoothly, day after day.

Especially among the National Guard – and I noticed this – were many African-Americans, with whom their white colleagues worked hand in hand, sometimes even having a kind word to say. That’s how it should normally be. They harmonized with each other and together like normal, civilized people, which otherwise cannot generally be said of this country.

As a long time resident of the United States, I can only say that you have given me hope and confidence today after these shocking four years of Donald Trump, this hatred towards dissenters and people of different skin color. Every normal feeling person knows that this cannot be the right way. Don’t let too many white farts ruin your country and your future. America is black and white, with a lot in between – that’s a good thing, that’s the great opportunity.