Auschwitz ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign stolen; ALP offers ‘Fair Work Sets You Free’ replacement

The Left protests when ministers and officials favour business mates or cruelly lock up refugees, but many of us have a vested interest in the status quo. As compensation for its authoritarian streak, the state has become a generous benefactor to progressives, either employing us to manage its utilities and programs for the marginalised, or making everyone from artists to community groups and scholars jump through hoops of red tape in a scramble for the next grant. But the state is more tar baby than magic pudding, leaving a residue of compromise and passivity on those too dependent on its patronage.


If you’re a middle-class progressive, your conscience may prick you as you suck on the government teat (everyone has their cross to bear).

If not…

First they imposed compulsory income management on Aborigines in the Northern Territory, and I did not speak out—because Noel Pearson said ‘only irresponsible behaviour would be affected’;
Then they imposed it on non-indigenous welfare recipients, and I did not speak out—because a Marxist in her youth, Jenny Macklin is a member of the Socialist Left faction of the ALP;
Then they came for the militant trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs workings families working families working families;
Then they came for the middle-class progressives—nah, just kidding!

Indigenous welfare rules apply to all, Misha Schubert, The Age, November 25, 2009.

Oh yeah.


Police: Auschwitz ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign stolen
Monika Scislowska (AP)

WARSAW, Poland — The infamous iron sign bearing the Nazis’ cynical slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen before dawn Friday, Polish police said.

The heavy 5-meter-long (16-foot-long), 40-kilogram (90-pound) iron sign at the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland where more than 1 million people died during World War II was unscrewed on one side and torn off on the other, police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said.

An exact replica of the sign — made by the museum after World War II — was immediately hung in place of the missing original to fill in the empty space inside the heads of ALP members, but all visitors were being informed about the theft, another museum spokesman, Pawel Sawicki, said…

See also : How to Make Trouble… // The Dole Army (November 6, 2009).

Bonus Philosophy!

At the onset of the twenty first century work and production have become ends in themselves. The resulting material affluence is accompanied by increasing levels of stress, insecurity, depression, crime, and drug taking. Escalating production and consumption are also destroying the environment on which life itself depends. Yet employment has become such a priority that much environmental degradation is justified merely on the grounds that it provides jobs. And people are so concerned to keep their jobs that they are willing to do what their employers require of them even if they believe it is wrong or environmentally destructive.

The social benefit of having the majority of able-bodied people in a society working hard all week goes unquestioned, particularly by those who work hardest. Few people today can imagine a society that does not revolve around work. How did paid work come to be so central to our lives? Why is it that so many people wouldn’t know what to do with themselves or who they were if they did not have their jobs?

In this major new book, Sharon Beder unearths the origins and the practices of a triumphant culture of work in which the wealthy are respected and inequality is justified. Dr Beder shows that these values are neither natural nor inevitable. They have been actively promoted – through religious preaching, corporate propaganda, the education system, and socialisation – by those who benefit most from them.

Selling The Work Ethic provides an absorbing account and critique of this central aspect of modern capitalist society. Prompted by her conviction that humanity needs to unlearn and change these powerfully held but now pathological values if we are to reverse the declining quality of life in industrial society, Dr Beder illuminates the impasse we are now in.

Bonus Art!

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2023 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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2 Responses to Auschwitz ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign stolen; ALP offers ‘Fair Work Sets You Free’ replacement

  1. THR says:

    Good post. One might have imagined that, 100 years ago, workers in rich industrialised nations like Australia would be doing fewer hours for greater wealth. It’s true that wealth had broadly increased, but then, so have hours, and the attack on workers’ rights and unions continues unabated by both sides of politics.

    Are the proponents of ‘income management’ citing any evidence at all of its purported effectiveness? My guess is that they are trying to exacerbate existing rifts within the working class between ‘white collar’ workers, traditional manual workers and those on the margins who would be the most likely to be affected by this move.

  2. @ndy says:


    Yeah. Beder’s book provides a good (which is to say ‘useful’) account of the transformations in labour that have taken place over this period, especially in Australia. In doing so, she examines both the casualisation of employment and the intensification of work. Thus on the one hand, there has been, especially in the last few decades, a massive increase in the number of casual jobs on offer to a discerning consumer base — precarious labour (and all that). On the other hand, work intensification must be understood in the context of the extension of relatively easily accessible forms of credit to the general population, and the subsequent boom in debt.

    When the talking heads make occasional reference to unemployment rates on infotainment programs, they also often make note of the fact that whatever increase in the number of jobs job jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs the bean-counters have detected, the majority is casual. In this instance, as in so many others, Australia follows the US lead.

    I dunno if this is still the case — because following them is fucking painful — but in relation to this ‘trend’, there was once ‘debates’ in the state/corporate media sector (/ideological state apparatus) about how ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ was somehow driving this change – The Kids being foot-loose and fancy-free in a way not remarked upon by their parents and grandparents (post-WWII). Complete bullocks, of course, but a pretty neat way of extinguishing any real disco.

    As for wealth… yeah, kinda. Depends what you recognise as being a source of or as constitutive of worthwhile stuffs. So yeah: there’s certainly been a massive increase in the size of the pile of human-produced shit on the planet; how much of it is useful or worthy of retaining is another question. Leaving aside the concepts what range across the wasteland that is (‘critical’) political economy, I thunk ecological-based perspectives make such determinations a lot more problematic. For example, in the dreams of accountants, external price factors disappear into outer space; in reality, the cost is always borne by some-one, or some-thing, generally Other. For as long as that some-one or some-thing has no (prominent) market value, s’all good. Pictures of starving brown- or black-skinned children, melting ice-caps, and deserts (on land or sea) can occasionally produce indigestion however — which is Bad, as it spoils dinner.

    Where was I?

    Oh yeah.

    Attacks on wages, conditions and the social wage. I think this is deployed, like any other technology, in a strategic fashion. Take the Shoppies. Nobody in their right mind — on either ‘side’ of politics — attacks the SDA. That’s ’cause both ‘sides’ agree that the Shoppies do a superb job of, for example, keeping checkout chicks from going hog-wild and slaughtering the pigs in management (or even squeaking too loudly as they’re crushed under the wheels of commerce). Any arm of organised labour which bucks this utterly natural and organic trend within the body politic, on the other hand, is obviously a target, and stomped on (to cheers from the peanut gallery).

    As for evidence of the effectiveness of ‘income management’… Well, I haven’t looked at the (presumably) numerous analyses which have been produced by the various government bureaucracies which concern themselves with such matters — let alone those shat out by the intellectual prostitutes employed by the (possibly even more numerous) corporate think tanks what provide the political ballast for boors in the banking sector — but I do recall reading some of the disco generated when ‘Work for the Dole’ was first instituted. In that case, the evidence was fairly clear: the program was unlikely to meet its stated objectives. On the other hand, it was highly likely to achieve its unstated objectives, which was to provide a further mechanism to undermine working conditions, disrupt labour solidarity, and more effectively impose micro-techniques of control over the social scum at the bottom of the economic ladder (all to ‘popular’ applause, of course).

    With regards the intention to exacerbate rifts between different occupational sectors — maybe. But one thing that springs to mind in this instance, as it does in other areas to do with the administration of social welfare/the crumbs that sometimes — sadly — slip off the rich man’s table to land at the shuffling feet of the lumpenproletariat, is that, as with other such programs, they do have the added virtue of providing more work for those employed to administer its implementation and oversee its policing. More broadly, sectoral division is sustained by a range of other factors, some of which are, crudely, material, while others are cultural.

    Moar l8r maybe…

    “In place of disenfranchisement and the workhouse, there was the means test and the inspecting officer policing the management of the family economy. In theory, the bureaucratisation of welfare promoted access and justice, in practice it engendered alienation and fear.” ~ David Vincent, quoted in Lydia Morris, Dangerous Classes: the Underclass and Social Citizenship (London: Routledge, 1994), p.41 [Beder, p.151].

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