Europäer (english)

Why Capitalism Must Be Overcome (Apropos 78)

For over a year a powerful wind has been storming across the globe: one demonstration has followed another.  To demonstrate is a human right, a subjective right that is the same for each human being. The concept of human rights proceeds from the idea that all human beings have these equal rights solely on the basis of their human existence and that these rights are universal, inalienable and indivisible. The right to demonstrate proceeds from the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to freedom of opinion, the freedom to express that free opinion and the right of assembly. The ideal basis had its origin in the Enlightenment. There have always been demonstrations since that time: against the Vietnam war, against the NATO double-track decision (Dec. 1979), against the Iraq war etc. The „Monday demos“ in the former GDR in 1989 had a different quality: hundreds of thousands of people – sometimes in danger of their lives – protested in the streets shouting „We are the people!“ and demanded freedom and democracy. They were no longer in fear of the authorities but demanded their fundamental rights. Following this model, there have been similar Monday demos for two years in Stuttgart, not in fear for one’s life but in fear of injury. On the 26.10.2009 four people protested the building of „Stuttgart 21“; this later became tens of thousands every Monday, and on 26.11.2011 the 106th demo took place. People have had enough of being overwhelmed by such gigantic and bureaucratic projects such as the „S21“. They no longer want to be ruled over but rather, to decide their future themselves. They were therefore able to force a referendum – which in Switzerland is quite normal – but in Germany was a sensation. Even though the referendum was lost, an impulse had showed itself which would not go away.

The „Indignados“ and Human Rights

In December 2010 the spark spread to Tunisia, and then Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries. Above all, young people were demanding freedom and democracy – in conditions of considerable danger to their lives. Many stood and faced the possibility of death so that those who came after them would have better lives. On 15 May Spain began „to burn“. In 58 cities there was a nationwide call to spontaneous non-partisan demonstrations, which criticised social, economic and political injustices. Hundreds of thousands, millions of

„Indignados“ (indignants) organised themselves in great combinations in social networks and stood and still stand in close relationship with the political movement „Real Democracy Now!“ Its goal is a change in Spanish politics and society. In addition to an end of corruption, they demand improvements in the situation of young people; their manifesto calls especially for attention to basic rights to accommodation, work, culture, health, education, political participation, the free development of the personality and the right to the secure provision of basic needs. The protests were evidently influenced by the events of the „Arab Spring“(1) and by the demonstrations in Greece. The name „Indignados“ was drawn from the book „Be indignant!“ by the French Resistance fighter Stephane Hessel, which called for resistance against financial capitalism (2). The 94 year-old Frenchman, who was lucky to survive  Buchenwald concentration camp (he was sentenced to death but was saved by a Nazi supervisor who gave him the identity of an inmate who had just died), is a diplomat and lyricist. After the war he immediately participated in the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, saw Gandhi as a role model and inveighed against the Israeli government („It is intolerable that Jews should commit war crimes“; he supported the demand for a boycott of Israeli products.

99 against 1 per cent of the population

In Autumn the spark of protest jumped to the „new world“. On 17 September 2011 the first demonstrators came together in New York under the slogan „Occupy Wall Street“. The Canadian magazine Adbusters had called for the protest. The model was the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo by the democratic critics of the Egyptian regime. Similar actions and decisions spread from city to city throughout the world. The movement straddled the

social scale (especially in the USA) and saw in itself the 99% of the population „who will no longer accept the greed and corruption of 1% of the population“. Criticism was directed against the excessive influence of the wealthiest Americans on politics and legislature (the so-called plutocrats) and against a politics that was too close to the banks and economic circles. The protestors deliberately made no specific demands because for them, the point was above all to raise consciousness. The young especially did not want to allow themselves to be sectioned into party groups but to find reasonable solutions for the future.

The Task of the Economy

Rudolf Steiner showed 100 years ago what an important role the overcoming of capitalism must play in finding the way to the future: the economy exists to satisfy all human beings‘ (material) needs and not for the maximisation of profit. This means that capitalism, which has had its historical justification but which cannot reach the desired goal, must be overcome – and not by being taken over by the State, for that leads – as historical examples have shown – merely to a State capitalism with still worse conditions. Capitalism can only be overcome through what Steiner calls the threefolding of the social organism: an autonomous cultural life (free from interference by the economy or the State); „the establishment of human rights through the exclusion of all non-universal-human interests from the body of law „; a „just distribution of goods in a correct relationship of valuation of goods (wares) through the restructuring of the present system of capital and wages.“ (3)

Production ought not to be for profit

„This impulse calls for the restriction of the State to all those areas of life in which citizens are in relationships of equality with one another. On this basis is to be attained, in a firmly democratic manner with the restructuring of the present private capitalistic relationships of ownership and forced labour (…), above all such a general human right that the worker (every person) relates to the work leader (…who is only a mental worker) as a completely free personality. This impulse calls for an economic life in which the worker relates to the work leader in such a way that between the two a free social relationship can come about contractually with regard to what is to be

achieved by them, so that the wage relationship completely ceases.“ To repeat: the wage relationship must completely cease! Steiner goes on: „For this, the complete socialisation of the economic life is necessary (an economic life adapted to true social collaboration)“. It must be done in such a way that from it „a regulation of the values of goods can proceed which assures for everyone an existence with human dignity. Only such a regulation of the values of goods can realise the fundamental principle that: one does not produce for profit but only (in line with general social relationships) for consumption. The regulation of the values of goods is only possible when, after the separation of the spheres of culture and the State, one has to do with nothing other than with the production, distribution and consumption of goods. Every interest in unobjective, mere (monetary or) capital valuation, every system of remuneration built on and operating according to competitive interests hinders an appropriate, reciprocal determination of prices and thereby hinders a just distribution of goods.“(4)

Capitalism leads to an emptiness of soul

Money therefore may not be put to „work“; it must be used so that it serves a just distribution of goods. Here Steiner sees „the moral side of the modern social question“. The „ultimate mark of the capitalist economic order“ is the „accumulation of capital as such, the growth of capital, which is not aimed at economic achievements but at profit – this separates the human being from his production. And in this separation of the human being from his production lies an essential feature of the latest modern development.“ But this has another side, for „in the world it is the case that as a rule, one phenomenon does not appear without another but that phenomena appear together in the most diverse ways“: „What the modern world has pursued in the accumulation of capital in modern capitalism, in the growth of capital, has on one hand – not in a one-sidedly logical manner but in a logical manner that conforms to reality –  become linked through the rise of capitalism with the lack of interest which we find among modern humanity precisely as the deepest impulse of the human soul. On the one hand the exclusion of the human personality from the economic process, and on the other hand the drying out of the personality, which has been separated out from the economic process, notably the spiritual-soul nature of the human being. Both things belong together. Both things have produced  that frightful drive of the modern metropolis, in which capitalism has especially established itself, where on one hand capitalism is at work but on the other hand there rules the lack of interest in the most intimate questions of the inmost human soul.“ (5)

The necessity for a reversal in our entire world of thought

As mentioned above, Rudolf Steiner stated these things 100 years ago. Since then, conditions – not only in big cities – have become much worse. An ever growing inner emptiness can be observed, especially among young people. This can not be filled by having people *believe* „in God and divine beings“. The human being must learn „that he allows God and divine beings to be active in his own being, that he allows the forces of the spiritual world to flow into what he himself does, what he does in his daily life.“ Such behaviour will „only arise when above all it occurs in our thinking. To receive God actively, not merely as the content of our belief – that is the task of modern humanity. Not merely to think about God but to think in such a way that God lives in our thoughts – that is what it is about. If one gives himself to such an ideal, then one will develop the necessary interest in everything for which unfortunately, in recent decades, the greater proportion of modern humanity has developed no interest at all.“ What is crucial is that „we find the possibility to make clear to humanity that a change is necessary in our whole world of thought. It is high time; for if….(the chance) is missed to work in this direction, the most furious instincts will arise in people over almost all of the civilised world, or at least over a large part of it. Do you believe that when these instincts have reached a certain culmination, a certain peak, that

they will be easy to suppress? A long, long time will go by before they have exhausted themselves.“ Many in the Occupy movement already referred to are striving all over the world for such a change in the entire world of thought.

Capitalism’s tentacles over spiritual life

„The whole of modern humanity“ participates at least in „indirect ways in the modern capitalist process, especially the educated section of modern humanity“. It is involved in that „its existence depends on the capitalist economic order. A man may be an artist: just as in earlier times he may have produced his work for a prince or a pope, so today he produces for capitalists. And when you draw such threads which stretch today from the arts to capitalism over the most varied areas of life, then you will see how capitalism has extended its tentacles over all aspects of life, especially over spiritual life.“

What Capitalism Wants: Justification instead of Truth

And further: „What for most people lies at the actual foundation of reality! The justification of what they do. That is what capitalism wants: above all, to justify its existence. It can only do so when it observes the most external material process, the most material economic process in its mirror image, in the accumulation of capital. But then, if the capitalist economic order is to be justified in this physical world, all affairs that are of a spirit or soul nature must be excluded. They must go into a special area. The priest may say what he will from his pulpit about things of faith – I can believe it, another can believe it, or I can choose not to believe it and he can choose not to believe it – the priest is speaking about quite another world. In the world in which one has to live, things cannot proceed in the way the priest speaks about, self-evidently not, things must proceed capitalistically.“ One can observe this very easily today, for example, with the sons of priests who have become billionaires.

Other downsides

„So on the one hand extreme capitalism has called forth this frightfully abstract moral-spiritual life, which seeks to cut itself off completely from all external realities of existence. Just as bad as material capitalism is in modern

life on the one hand, there is on the other hand that attitude which says: „Oh, what do I care about Ahriman! What does this ahrimanic being of credit, money, property and ownership have to do with me! (….) I am concerned with the affairs of my own soul!“ But just as in the human being „body and soul and spirit are bound up with each other“, so in the outer physical life are the impulses of our soul and the external economic order. „Just as guilty of bringing about the modern catastrophe as materialistic capitalists are with their ways of thinking and their attitudes – just as guilty are also those who on the one hand wish to be only very pious and spiritual but who withdraw themselves within the compass of this spirituality  and do not allow any active thinking on their part to penetrate daily reality.“

It is a social „fallacy“ when money is made to „work“

At the core of capitalism belongs also the fact that unlike all other goods money does not age but simply increases without cost. Steiner describes this as a „social fallacy“.“Think of all that I must do, if — let us say — through all my activity I am to thrive so well that as a result of having a certain amount of potatoes today I shall have double the amount in 15 years‘ time. And think how little an individual person has to do if he possesses £20 in money today and wishes to possess double the amount in 15 years‘ time. He need do nothing at all; he can withdraw his entire labour-power from the social organism and have other people work instead. All he need do is provide the money and have other people do the work. Unless he himself in the meantime sees to it that the money is spent, the money need not be used up.“ (5)

„Money begins to stink“

In social threefolding there is „rightful interest“ because it must be possible in economic life that „past labour can be used for future achievement“. But it is also appropriate „that capital should gradually exhaust itself. While capital may have doubled over 15 years, in about another 15 years in the future it will have ceased to exist. The opposite process also occurs! Just as other things go off and smell bad, so also does money.“ Thus: „There is no interest from interest. There cannot be such, nor can there be any having capital put to work. Money begins to stink. Just like other things, like meat and the rest, it goes bad. It is no longer there, it does not work on further.“ (6)

Quintessentially, the normal, mere capital accumulation of today must cease. Accordingly, the banks must be reorganised, and speculation must be made impossible. Banking businesses must operate in the interests of the economy and of human beings not in the interests of profit.

Where world egoism stems from.

Here too Rudolf Steiner saw what was coming: „World-egoism proceeds from the Anglo-American race. From that direction the whole Earth will be overlaid with egoism. It is from England and America that all the discoveries come that will cover the Earth like a network of egoism. So it is from there that the whole Earth will be covered by a network of egotistic evil. (…) The English-American civilisation consumes European culture. (But there is however also a glimpse of light: „But from a small colony in the East there will be developed, as though from a seed, new life for the future.“ (7)

How Plutocracy rules

Steiner knew from English occult circles: „For decades it was always  indicated in small circles of the western peoples, of the Anglo-American peoples: there will and must be a world conflagration and out of this world

conflagration Eastern Europe will assume a form such that within this Eastern Europe socialist experiments must be carried out, experiments which we ourselves in the West and in English-speaking regions never again wish to

carry out. Such ideas became a tradition and it is traceable until back in the 1880s that the (…) large-scale Anglo-American politics had foreseen that to which, unfortunately, the middle European politics of nullity were blind and deaf: that a world conflagration was coming and that the East of Europe would be ripe for socialist experiments.“(8)

And further: „Everything has been based on this, that through the world war the socialist experiment of the East would come and inundate Middle Europe. In the lodges of the initiates these people said: We in the West are preparing everything in advance so that in the future, with all the means one can gain from the spiritual world   – but can gain in illegitimate ways – we shall acquire such men for the raising of the national honour who can become their rulers, single men on a plutocratic foundation. That was prepared from the West. In it ahrimanic spirits were active.“ (9)

On a plutocratic foundation? In the dictionary, ‚plutocracy‘ (Greek: rule by the rich) is a form of rulership in which rulership is legitimated by property (wealth), therefore the rulership of money (it is also called „the moneyed aristocracy“). Political rights are granted on the basis of property and wealth. „In a plutocratic system there is a high degree of social inequality“. The reality is that today’s (casino) capitalism stems from the Anglo-American realm. At least half the US members of Congress are millionaires or billionaires, while more than 20 million people in the USA have incomes below the official poverty line – and thus belong to „the poorest of the poor“.


The need for real socialism

This is a consequence of the fact that the „socialist experiments“ were carried through in the East in such a way that „socialism“ for most people today has been totally discredited. Rudolf Steiner warned in 1919: „It must never again happen that western peoples be allowed to accomplish socialist experiments in Middle and Eastern Europe. But it can only be prevented if we take up our task and set a goal for  the cultural life of Middle Europe. That is our task!“ It was not resolved! (8)

Steiner also warned: „Socialism under today’s social conditions, which are antisocial, depends on people having within them that which is of the spirit and soul, to be able to understand each other through language. Otherwise it is impossible to come to real socialism.“ (10)


Boris Bernstein

1 El País, 17.5.2011.
2 Stéphane Hessel: Engagez-vous! (Involve yourselves) Paris 2011.
3 Rudolf Steiner, GA 24, S. 440.
4 Rudolf Steiner, GA 24, S. 439.
5 Rudolf Steiner, GA 340 3.8.1922.
6 Rudolf Steiner, GA 331 24.6.1919.
7 Rudolf Steiner, GA 93a 31.10.1905.
8 Rudolf Steiner, GA 192 9.6.1919.
9 Rudolf Steiner, GA 192 22.6.1919.
10 Rudolf Steiner, GA 192 13.7.1919.


Der Europäer, Vol. 16 / No. 4 / Feb 2012

Translated by Terry Boardman