This is encouraging. The Cardinal helped draft Benedict’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which did so much to clarify Catholic social teaching.This is an excerpt from an interview in 30 Giorno in 2009:
After the collapse of communism, in the nineties the theories of free marketeers began to circulate. They heralded the coming of progressive, irreversible and universal prosperity and consumerism for all peoples and nations. Fukuyama predicted the end of history. Then, how did it go?
MARX: I remember Bush senior saying that after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism there was the possibility of building a new world order. John Paul II, back in 1991, in Centesimus Annus, warned that radical capitalist ideology would not open the path to the future. And that what was wanted was a morally alert market economy, oriented towards global welfare. In fact, that radical capitalist ideology has become the social model. The narrow view has prevailed that leaves to the market the monopoly on all human relationships. And this has led the world into a dead end. If you look back now, at the thinking, and slogans of twenty years ago, that stressed the emergence of a new social order after the end of communism, one can say with certainty that the first attempt has failed.
As a pastor, in practice where did you see and register for the first time that the free market utopia was a deception?
MARX: I had seen with my own eyes even earlier, a long time before, the social problems of real people, such as unemployment. Already when I was a bishop in Trier, along with the great charitable agencies, we had taken steps to help families curb the effects of soaring unemployment. But now there’s a radicalization, with the number of workers on precarious short-term contracts continuing to grow, or with what is happening for example in health care, where dogmatic application of deregulation and privatization has increased the insecurity of families, their real difficulty in remaining above the line of mere subsistence. In the canteens operated by the charities even in Germany whole families are arriving that previously belonged to the middle class. And everything that has been said and done since 2000 has given only illusory and seeming answers, without really trying to find solutions to real problems. There will never be a perfect world. A bishop knows that well. But certainly this global “turbo-capitalism” has led to a deterioration in the daily situation of millions of people.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall marked the historical failure of communism. Yet in your book Capital you point out that the global situation that we have under our eyes today confirms various predictions of Karl Marx on the dynamics of capitalism.
MARX: In the analysis of liberalism and capitalism Karl Marx recognized some things for what they were. And some of his analyses also serve for grasping the dynamics of the present moment. For example, the globalization of capital, the reduction of labor to commodity on a global scale. The remedy he proposed was wrong. His materialist conception of man, rather than being at odds with the vision of Christian anthropology, does not correspond with the datum of reality. On the other hand, that also applies to the other materialistic image, the triumphant one conveyed by capitalist ideology, whereby the only real man in terms of the existent is homo oeconomicus, man as a function of economic processes, and the rest is an incidental and redundant trifle. So Karl Marx wasn’t altogether wrong.
Without getting into the game of fake rehabilitations, can his analytical tools help us take a realistic and concrete look of the capitalist economy in the present?
MARX: Maybe there was no need of Karl Marx to understand these dynamics. His originality doesn’t lie there. In the same period there were also representatives of Christian social doctrine who reached the same level of critical examination of the mechanisms of capitalism, and where these mechanisms would lead, if left uncurbed. But certainly, where Marx is right, we must acknowledge it.
Some politicians, in seeking ways out of the crisis, are proposing structural changes in economic processes and the relations between capital, labor and production. In Italy, the Minister for the Economy Giulio Tremonti has suggested that workers should share in the profits of companies. What do you think of such proposals?
MARX: That is a criterion already taken into account by more traditional Catholic social teaching. I’m in favor of testing the various models of workers’ participation, but they need to be defined in precise terms. Because in a global economy, where there is tremendous flexibility, it’s not easy to determine the manner in which the worker can share in the profits of a company. For example, if the worker must also share in the losses, it could jeopardize his very existence. This means that wages can hardly be totally absorbed by sharing. Sharing must be defined as a surplus to the basic guaranteed wage, so that there is no danger of workers being thrown onto the street, losing the wage they need to live. Of course, every possible thing should be done so that the worker feels involved in the potential development of a company, that he feels its success and also the risks and difficulties as his own. But there is no ready-made model, and we must have the courage to experiment and find ways to field-test these hypotheses.
The German model of the welfare state, innervated by the social thinking of the German Church, is considered obsolete by many people. And the Liberals, who won the last election, are in the forefront of the criticism. Will there be further cuts to the welfare state in Germany?
MARX: In Germany all the political forces claim to base themselves on the free market economic model. But recently we have seen that there are different interpretations of this model. And certainly, as compared to earlier, the welfare state has been weakened. Now it seems almost to have become an embarrassment and a problem, and instead it’s part of the solution to the problem. It was quite clear at the moment of acute crisis that Germany held up thanks to a welfare state that works: insurance for the unemployed, benefits for those laid off, support for those with odd jobs, public health care. Through these means the setbacks suffered by people in countries that have minimized or completely dismantled the network of social guarantees were avoided. And I’m in no way persuaded by those who say that spending on the welfare state can be cut because “here no one goes hungry”. I find it primitive. In a situation where there is a total absence of social justice, assuring food for all might have been a minimum target to aim at, but definitely, that is not a life worthy of a human being. So I would say that for those who believe that Germany should abolish the welfare state, the chances of putting it through are gone, for the moment. Let’s wait.
Is there nothing to revise, to change? One is exposed to the criticism of espousing wishful out-of-date welfare state thinking.
MARX: Of course, in political and social matters everything is dynamic and can be improved and adapted to new needs, so God forbid. Even the German Bishops’ Conference has suggested the benefits of a renewal of the welfare state. For example, investing in training and professional skills. It’s not just a matter of transferring money from here to there, but of giving everyone a chance to update their training and therefore of not being excluded from social life. Or really addressing the issue of immigrants. It’s a huge social problem. In Germany as in Italy people have shut their eyes a bit on this. The fact that the major factors of integration are work and school has not been focused on. We must say clearly that we are a country of new immigrants and we are happy to be so, we are happy that people come here, rather than closing the door to these people. Let’s face it: in a country with these demographic rates, we are glad to see immigrants who have children. And the welfare state plays a decisive role in the processes of integration.
The Church emphasized the leadership of figures related to various Church communities in the events of 1989. And that historical transition, that change of historico-political scenario, was experienced and described by many as the premise for a revival of faith and of the Church as social force.
MARX: That was an illusion. The fact of thinking: let’s commit ourselves to the change, and then people, to thank us, will become Christians and return to the churches, was an illusion. Because becoming Christian is a gift. I can’t buy the faith, I can’t even think of catching someone’s interest for the faith through political performance, as some seem to believe. I remember that still in the days of communism, I spoke with some Polish priests, who wondered what would happen if life in Poland were as it was with us? I replied that they would have had the same problems as us. In a free society such as the one in which we live, one becomes Christian only through grace. And that is the situation that we should wish for ourselves. But some in the Church don’t understand. They don’t want to understand that in the situation we find ourselves in one becomes Christian only in this way: by people looking at Christians and seeing that faith is a gift, a richness that goes far beyond anything we can do ourselves, and by asking to enjoy the same riches. That is why the liturgy is so important.
Some circles, especially among American neo-cons, saw how to exploit the euphoria of 1989 in political terms (ecclesiastical politics also)...
MARX: One must always repeat it clearly: the Church is not against the modern world, freedom, democracy, pluralism. As if it were better for those things not to exist. But that has nothing to do with reducing Christianity to religious ideology propping the market economy. On some issues such as the defense of life and the family the so-called neo-cons, are fully in line with the Church. But I don’t understand how one can define oneself neo-conservative and put all one’s trust in the capitalist model. Capitalism is dynamic, it’s not conservative, it’s very progressive. It doesn’t conserve social and cultural situations as it found them, it changes them and often distorts them by introducing new paradigms and clichés. Whereas one often sees this kind of pact linking those who nurture traditional values of conservation with capitalism. But the two things don’t go well together.
Rea the whole thing here.