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Against the light of socialism

The dream of the red Rosa Luxemburg, socialism, language and love
Nina Björk leads us through the fog of consumer power and identity politics, along with Rosa Luxemburg.


A fact that is repeated several times in Nina Björk's book on Rosa Luxemburg and her theoretical heritage is that we now live in a world where the 85 richest people own as much as the 3,5 billion poorest. This repetition becomes effective when, at the same time, she writes about the politicians' well-used argument against a more redistributive policy, namely that this is not realistic. We are in a place in history where the grotesque inequality is accepted and considered most necessary, where houses are empty in southern Europe while people live on the streets, and how many starve to death while we throw in tons of food daily in the West. What would Rosa Luxemburg say to this? And how can we change the framework for what is realistic before the crisis grows bigger? These are key issues in Björk's project – in a book that is a mix of biography, political analysis and essay.

The laws of capitalism. Björk is not gracious to the Social Democrats, neither the Germans who participated in the 1919 murder of Luxembourg, nor the contemporary Swedes. Then as now, she believes that they have a too naive attitude to capitalism and the opportunities to create a just society within this economic model. She even goes so far as to claim that "the great reformist successes of the European labor movement during the 1900th century helped capitalism give it such a human face that it was accepted". This is a radical claim, but a claim she lays with good arguments.

The Swedish author constantly goes back to the Marxist basic principle that as long as someone owns the labor of others, there will be a bias that creates freedom for those who are dependent on selling their labor. Today's trade union work for Björk thus becomes a sisyphos work where the stone that rolls down is the law of gravity of capitalism. One of these laws of gravity is the necessity of growth in order to avoid financial crises, and in order to achieve growth, private capital must be given ever new tumultuous places. Björk points out how the Social Democrats have accepted the privatization of welfare services because they accept the logic of capitalism, and then become morally indignant that someone makes money from, for example, elderly care and asylum institutions. Stefan Löfven reacted in this way in connection with Attendo's handling of refugee children in the autumn of 2015 – when the company placed several children in each room, but received as much money from the municipality per child as before.

Today's union work will be a Sisyphus work where the stone that rolls down is the gravity of capitalism.

Marxism and the Bible. One of the most important insights Björk brings with him from Luxembourg is the distinction between morality and analysis: “In Marxism there is little as in the Bible, where everything is claimed to have its time; morality has its time, and analysis has its time. To analyze the individual capitalist as greedy, stingy and wicked and the individual worker as industrious, just and good is meaningless. They can be like humans anyway – yet they are not like humans they act when they act in the capitalist mode of production. " She takes Luxembourg's thoughts into reflections on both consumer power and identity politics, and she illustrates here in an effective way why the left is struggling in today's political landscape (and here lies an indirect critique of some of the green, ideologically independent parties that often appeals to the morals of the people). When it comes to consumer power, Björk writes off this as an unsuitable tool for change, primarily because it only reflects the imbalances between the classes' (economic) freedom. The rich on the employer side can make the "right" choices, while the poor workers are at the mercy of the cheapest alternatives. In identity politics, on the other hand, it is a little more complicated, but she explains it in a way that is liberatingly neat compared to many others who have participated in this debate.

Cause and effect. A fundamental distinction is this: «To say that something gets material effects is not the same as saying that something has a material Orsak. " As a profiled feminist, it gives credibility when she uses gender to illustrate this difference, because we thus understand that it is not about gender being less important than class, but that there are two different categories. She asks us to imagine a society that is totally equal and shows how capitalism can still live in the best of times, for it is not the case that it presupposes a patriarchy. Classes, on the other hand, are a prerequisite for the existence of capitalism and thus have a material cause, not just a material effect. Björk is critical of identity politics' circle around experience and emotions as political tools and refers to Luxembourg's attitude as more coherent and rational. Luxembourg rejected all appeals to her femininity and lack of experience with the challenges of the working class as "below her dignity" to answer. She separated identity from political work.

Classes are a prerequisite for the existence of capitalism and thus have a material cause, not just a material effect.

For Rosa Luxemburg, it was a matter of finding rational solutions to the problems created by the lack of redistribution and the imbalance of power, and we read from Björk's analysis that she understood how the experience and identity argument could seem exclusive rather than unifying. Luxembourg lived at all in a time when experience, emotions and identity were not mixed into the political in the same way as today, and that was perhaps why the left was stronger? I think one can here draw the threads of capitalism's exaltation of precisely individuality rather than community, because it contributes to a desired competitive situation. This does not necessarily mean that individuality is unimportant to socialists, as they are often accused of. It can simply mean that it does not always is important, because emphasizing identity in some contexts can create differences between people who have the same material needs and who need to stand together to have them fulfilled.

Towards centralization. There are, of course, objections to both Luxembourg and Björk's analyzes. One can discuss how successful the welfare state is, but in Scandinavia we have, after all, created a social model where employees indisputably have a not insignificant power through solid unions, and we have a balance of power between market and state that works well in many areas. One of the great challenges of communism has been how to make a planned economy democratic, but here Luxembourg is better than many of its predecessors. She had great faith in the people and did not want Lenin's centralized power apparatus. The lack of centralization and the efficient organization that often accompanies it, however, was what plagued the Spartacists (for whom Luxembourg was a leader) when they rebelled against the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland) in the winter of 1918/1919.

Destructive competition. We may not get all the right answers to today's challenges from the Polish – born woman who tried to create a democratic socialism more radical than Bernie Sanders' and Jeremy Corbyn's combined, but we definitely have something to learn from the anti-nationalist Second International she was a part of. of. We can learn that competition between states and markets will inevitably lead to war and disaster, and that as long as we all have the same needs: food, drink, oxygen and protection from wind and weather, it is a better and more rational idea to distribute and protect the available resources available than fight to take a monopoly on them.

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