The Big Lie and the 8-Hour Day by Andre Losing and Stephan Kroll
All personal and corporate success depends on state investments in roads, schools, libraries, hospitals, airwaves, food safety, water quality and clean air. The Internet, touch-screen technology and GPS originated from state risk-taking. The state becomes corrupted when it turns away from the public interest and reducing poverty and becomes the plaything of private and special interests. The 8-hour day celebrated its 100th birthday in Germany. THE BIG LIE: EVERYONE IS THE CREATOR OF HIS OR HER OWN HAPPINESS
By Andre Losing
[This article published on September 7, 2018 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, www.nachdenkseiten.de.]
This is a theme that must interest all of us very much. How we live and what life means to us depend on our relating to one another and on our professional, health and family situation. The Nachdenkseiten critical website shows day in and day out the neglect caused by neoliberalism in our schools, our streets and our society and is not merely a crazy idea. In the meantime, we are living in post-neoliberal times.
This misanthropic system becomes worse and worse.
The greatest post-neoliberal lie was inflicted on me during my schooldays: “Everyone is the creator of his or her own happiness.”
Today, I ask myself how I could fall for this delusion. Isn’t helping other persons the greatest need of every person, creating something with other persons or being human?
Post-neoliberalism has forced people in Germany into a socially frozen caste system…
I have been part of the service case for 8 years. I work in the security agency branch and work far more than 11 hours daily. The price that I pay is a massive decline of lifetime and quality of life. I only do night shifts and do not do this out of choice. Rather, I have not found any emergency exit from this precarious and risky situation. Art and philosophy bring me comfort and solace. I toy with the idea of being a songwriter.
This precarious situation has made me alert to the social system in Germany. Not saying “please” or “thank you” and not looking the other in the eye seem normal today. The practice of post-neoliberalism is to blame, not the people. Everyday I try to preserve my humanliness but this becomes harder and harder.
This disparaging arrogance is not only reflected with a large part of humankind. Our “national politicians” have lost any real relation to their voters…
I can understand what happened in Chemnitz. That does not mean that I approve. In all the hysterical reporting that only aims at extinguishing as much attention as possible and making sales skyrocket, it was striking to me that the historical development of the city of Chemnitz was swept under the rug.
Chemnitz was once a blooming and important city. This city is gradually dying out and that is a fact. Many young persons do not see any lasting perspective in this city anymore and move away to West Germany… This whole march was a pure instrumentalization of the rightwing scene.
The media speaks in an arrogant tone about the socially mutated symptoms in this city. The failure of the German government is not only responsible for this state (be cause the government should make this city more attractive by investing in it). Our leading media also bear a large part of the blame. Generalization is a favorite journalistic instrument, it seems to me.
A sign is set on the cultural side with the concert. However, concerts do not help in the struggle against misanthropic or inhuman companies. It is time to rise up!
Through my work on the nightshift, I have come to know many persons who spend most of their life in the driver’s seat of 40-ton trucks. Most of them come from Rumania or Russia and are the warmest persons I know. I am personally grieved in my soul about how these men are reported. On one side, the western world is such a welded or shrink-wrapped community. On the other side, people fade out that Moscow is Europe’s largest capital city and that eastern Europeans are worth less than other Europeans. I am deeply ashamed of what has come out of this supposedly enlightened and empathic Europe when I read about Greece, Europe’s real myth. Then, I do not want to be a European…
Once again, it is time to rise up! The gathering movement comes at the right time.
100 YEARS OF THE 8-HOUR DAY
by Stephan Kroll
[This article published in Ossietzky 16/2018 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.ossietzky.net. In the US, August 13, 2018 was the 83rd anniversary of social security and passed with hardly any public celebration or commemoration.]
Time is the noun used most frequently in the German language. Time themes become existentially important for us. Lifetime is central for us as persons working for wages. Working hours is crucial for owners of factories who live from the exploitation of human labor power. The longer the working hours, the higher the profits.
100 years ago, the 8-hour day became the general legal standard as a result of the incomplete November Revolution. Besides other concessions to the workers’ movement like recognition of elected works councils, employers and conservative politicians made this one “concession” to prevent worse things — from their view — namely socialist projects. A few years later, the reactionary forces felt strong enough to attack the 8-hour day and lengthen conventional working hours. However, this first completely succeeded after the fascist assumption of power. After 1945, the 40-hour week or rather the 5-day week followed in the 1960s and the 35-hour week for some economic sectors in the 1990s. Unlike the 8-hour day, the further reductions of regular working hours were “only” fought over in wage settlements and were not passed as laws. Now, we live in a time when the duration of daily and weekly working hours like lifetime working hours is passionately contested again and must be fought out! Whoever dodges this struggle has already lost.
Employers and their political executors have announced a general attack. The 8-hour day must end! The 40-hour week must end! And lifetime working hours must be extended. This is unanimous for businesspersons in academia and politics. A labor minister, Andrea Nahles in the Great Coalition, presented a plan for “experimental zones” with the possibility of extending daily working hours and shortening breaks and the time between two workdays. The thin argumentation, “digitalization requires this,” was a sufficient reason. The Black-Brown coalition in Austria resolved to raise the legal maximum working hours to 12 hours daily and 60 hours weekly. “Flexibilization and decriminalization of the daily maximum working hours limit with voluntary flexitime to 12 hours is the reason. Daily time for bus and truck drivers may be prolonged to 16 hours a day according to plans of the European Commission and its “mobility package.” The left bloc in the Austrian union alliance writes: “The 12-hour workday and the 60-hour work week are unacceptable. Let us meet in the middle: the 6-hour day and the 30-hour week.”
There is an important counterpart in Germany to the tendency in Europe. Jutta Allmendinger, president of the German Academic Center, says: “The possibility of temporarily reducing working hours must be available to all employees. We must discuss how such a reduction of working hours can be financed. A social initiative on reduced working hours is urgently necessary. Evading this struggle is impossible because employers are waging it.”
In this mixed situation, a celebration of the 100th birthday of the 8-hour day — arranged by the attac Work-Fair Share study group — will be held on October 27 in Erfurt. The long-overdue next step of reduced working hours is primary, not only resisting the attacks on the 8-hour day. The 6-hour day or the 4-day week for everyone is on the agenda. Such a reduction of regular working hours is possible and necessary — in view of the productivity development on one side and lower growth on the other side. This could happen — with full wage compensation — since we live in one of the richest countries of the world.
Many SPD delegates with a social-democratic and union orientation urge this change in direction. “General working hours must be reduced to 35 weekly hours with full wage compensation. The minimum wage should be raised to 12 euros.” Even though this has not been decided positively (on account of the majority distribution of power), this is an important contribution for the necessary social debate and action.