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Commentary :: Labor
Ways out of Capitalism
29 Dec 2014
This introduction to Tomasz Konicz' "On the Search for Alternatives to the Permanent Capitalist Crisis" (2014) is translated from the German. Empire could be replaced by republic as excess could be replaced by access and more by enough. Capitalist contradictions and dislocations are not the last word.

By Tomasz Konicz

[This introduction to Tomasz Konicz’ “Aufbruch ins Ungewisse. On the Search for Alternatives to the Permanent Capitalist Crisis,” 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Tremendous obstacles stand in the way of conceiving alternatives to the permanent capitalist crisis. The watertight density of capitalist socialization, the all-persuasiveness of the market long curdled into a totality sets up a thought prison in every inmate of the global capitalist treadmill. When there is no non-capitalist “outside” any more and when all social fields and niches including the subculture are occupied by capitalist cost-benefit calculation, the mediated and subject-less capital rule, the notorious “silent pressure of conditions,” takes on the appearance of a natural condition.

Present conditions seem ahistorical and carved in stone although capitalism from the perspective of humanity’s history has only developed its destructive expansion dynamic in a very short time period. The escalating inner contradictions and dislocations of late capitalism intensifying the crisis appear as natural phenomena. Its structures congeal to axioms of all thought patterns. The post-capitalism debates that now also seize the mainstream of the mass media given the escalating system crisis shows the difficulty of breaking of this mental prison whose bars consist of everyday ideas and categories.

Impelled by the bestseller “The Zero-Marginal Cost Society” of the economic visionary Jeremy Rifkin who predicts an end of the capitalist economic mode, much of the mass media seems to touch a public taboo – in discussing the possibility of a system transformation and an emerging post-capitalist society. The most depressing moment in this public discussion consisted in the relapse to capitalist categories and thought forms of those contributions and actors who regard a system transformation as possible or necessary. Jeremy Rifkin’s visions are also overcome by this unconscious relapse.

In her article “The Brave New Share Economy and its Shady Sides,” Elisabeth Voss described where such a distorted and unreflective post-capitalism debate can lead. A new push of precariousness and wage dumping from which the commercial providers of the “share economy” profit is labeled an alternative economic mode. This is merely a rebranding of late capitalism.

Nevertheless a serious and far-reaching public discussion of system alternatives to crisis-plagued late capitalism is simply necessary for survival. The increasingly obvious inner and outer limits of the capitalist economic mode extend from the crisis of the work society and all-pervasive state breakdowns to threatening climate collapse that first catapulted the post-capitalist discou8rse into the mainstream. That the only future perspectives offered by late capitalism consist of dystopias or apocalypses – from film to computer games – is very clear given the escalating dislocations and contradictions.

The disintegration of the capitalist world system began long ago in its periphery. The state breakdown in many regions of Africa and the anomist chaos overtaking wide parts of the Arab region are manifestations of capitalist state failure and the molecular civil war in Mexico and Central America where the borders between states sinking in corruption and nepotism and the cartels are blurred beyond recognition.

The rise of extremist movements and parties from European rightwing extremism to Arab Jihadism accompanies this far-reaching economic and political crisis process – similar to the 1930s. Parallels to the prewar time in the crisis-plagued 1930s are unmistakable. The state machines of the superpowers react to the increasing state contradictions with intensified pressure to outward expansion expressed in the rapidly increasing tensions between the “West” (Europe and the US) and Russia and China. The perspective of a great war between these power blocs – that assumes an apocalyptic dimension given the accumulated destructive potential – moves into the realm of the conceivable and possible. The great unknown of the consequences of future climatic upheavals to which a system calibrated to permanent growth and boundless expansion cannot provide an answer hangs over all this like a Damosclenes sword.

Thus the search for alternatives to this social disorder sinking in chaos, war and monstrous barbarism is an expression of the plain will to survive, a sublimated survival instinct, where it becomes clear the rescue of individuals can only be achieved through preservation of the civilization process and transformation of society. The search for alternatives to capitalism is not extremist. The late capitalist system decays in extremism like everyday mass murder and increasing dislocations.

We live in an extremist society that constantly sweats out false ideologies like rightwing extremism or Islamism. Those apologists of capitalist rule who still describe this system mutating to a slaughter house of humanity as without alternatives and as the “best of all possible worlds” could be termed extremists. On the other hand, the search for a system-alternative represents the only rational, medium and moderate course. This is an undertaking to which every petty-bourgeois worried about the future of his children could be devoted. Their training to mobbing machines as happened and now happens in the middle class does not open up any future perspectives worth living.

The destructive potential has increased immeasurably through capitalism. However the material potentials for its mastery and transformation have also grown in the bosom of this old dying social formation. The absurdity of the present system crisis consists in the circumstance that capitalism perishes in its hyper-productivity and suffocates in the whole produced mountain of goods. Thus the system alternative to this gigantic capitalist over-production crisis represents something very simple that is hard to realize as Bertold Brecht formulated.

The goal may be of stirring, heart-rending simplicity but the paths there are enormously difficult and arduous. They can only be found by means of a broad egalitarian discussion, a public discourse in which a fundamental characteristic of a post-capitalist society would appear – the conscious independence of all members of society over the social reproduction process.

This eBook could make a modest contribution to deepening this necessarily controversial debate that is vital to survival. This can only be a first step that makes a fundamental orientation within the complex thematic easier for the interested reader and makes possible a first positioning.

The articles make clear the ideas of the “visionary” Jeremy Riflkin – and the discussion kicked off by him – are ultimately based on the theoretical work of a whole generation of activists over years who drafted these ideas and concepts before the mainstream seized them. Thus this eBook should deepen the discourse about post-capitalism. The concepts underlying these mass media slogans should be taken seriously and filled with concrete content so their misuse by marketing strategies of the commercial “share economy” is prevented. Rights to terms like share economy, peer-production, de-growth, post-growth economy and the commons should be disputed in the media circus so their undermining and devaluation can be prevented.


Tomasz Konicz, Florian Roetzer, Aufbruch ins Ungewisse. On the Search for Alternatives to the Permanent Capitalist Crisis, 2014

Tomasz Konicz, The Systemic Causes of the Crisis, 2012

Michigan Citizen, Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2005

We are in the midst of a great transformation, not only economically but psychologically, culturally, politically, in our relations with one another, to the Earth, to other species and to other peoples of the world, and in our concept of ourselves and of our rights and responsibilities as human beings.

To an unprecedented degree, as we approach 2006, millions of us are aware that our present and impending disasters are not natural but man-made, the consequence of our limitless pursuit of capital accumulation.

Up to now the main victims of this have been the peoples of the global South. But now the chickens are coming home to roost. In our own countries, the United States and throughout Europe, there are tens of millions who for decades have been marginalized, living how they can, without any social safety nets, unemployed, disempowered, disenfranchised, disengaged, disrespected, and without a perspective of another positive future.

These people in the so-called informal sector are now being joined by those who through centuries of struggle and sacrifices thought they could look forward to a stable and secure future for themselves and their children.

At this moment and under these circumstances it would be easy to despair. But this universal crisis is not only a danger but a promise, an opportunity to advance ourselves and our societies to a new level, based on a new vision, new principles and values:

• Respect for the limits of the earth
• Responsibility for community and not just for self
• Concern for posterity into the seventh generation
• Partnership instead of patriarchal relations
• A new concept of Work based on use values and skills
• Resistance to commodification of human relationships and of all life
• Local, sustainable and self-reliant economies instead of one global dominant economy
• Diversity instead of monocultures
• Restore the joy of living in community with all creatures
• Practice global citizenship to preserve the best of our historical traditions
• Social justice and cooperation instead of exploitation and competition


WE can begin by restoring our relationships to each other and to the Earth
WE can create gardens, for food, health and to create a community as a basis for resistance, for learning and enjoyment of young and old.
WE can create new subsistence skills to grapple with our present problems and the challenges to come.
WE can transform our schools from job-and-career-oriented institutions to places where children and young people can learn the values of teamwork, serving the community, self-reliance and the joys of creativity
WE can initiate discussions in our communities locally, nationally and internationally on new visions, a new perspective, and the profound historical meaning of the great turning during this time in which we live.
WE can share and spread the word of what people are already doing to create a better world.

Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit, Michigan.,
Maria Mies, Koeln, Germany, Women and Life on Earth (WLOE)
Shea Howell, Detroit, Michigan
Werner Ruhoff, Koeln, Germany
Hilmar Kunath, Hamburg, Germany
Elisabeth Voss, Berlin, Germany
Irina Vellay, Dortmund, Germany
12-03-2005 David Schwartzman - Professor Department of Biology Howard University Washington, DC 20059

This statement emerged from some of the participants in the International Workshop on Self-Organizing and
Common Self-Reliance, Cologne, Germany, October 20-22, 2005
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Social Innovations For Economic Degrowth
29 Dec 2014
"Wikipedia is a perfect example of a radical social innovation that overcomes the basic structures of capitalism—markets, wage labor, and state intervention—and does not rely on material growth...

Cooperation is not restricted to the local, as information commons best illustrate. The Mondragon corporation in the Basque country, which employs more than 85,000 members and comprises 256 companies and bodies, of which approximately half are cooperatives, is another good example. These companies are not coordinated by monetary relations or state regulations but—within clear limitations—by democratic governance.10 Another example is the kibbutzim of the 1960s, which were characterized by complex cooperation both internally and externally within the overarching institutional network of kibbutz settlements.(11)

Such cooperative networks act like super-commons, linking different systems and smaller communities through collaborative decision making procedures. Insofar as those networks replace monetary relations with a direct focus on concrete human needs, they are not oriented toward profit making and thus enable degrowth...

An economy that is able to degrow can also enter a steady state of constant production and consumption with low-level, highly efficient resource use. This could fulfill the very goal that the capitalist economy increasingly fails to serve: a good life for all."

to read the article by Andreas Exner and Christian Lauk, August 29, 2012,, click on