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Archive for May 12th, 2009

Layoffs

ParkeJ20090512_low

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Raul Zibechi in MR Zine:

Among leftists and fighters against the system, the predominant idea is usually that the current crisis is “their” crisis, a crisis of capital and capitalists, which has dramatic consequences for the world of labor.  It turns out to be very difficult to accept that we, too, are going through “our” crisis, a crisis of our methods of understanding the mode of domination and our strategies for potentially overcoming the crisis in an emancipatory way…

Based on a certain interpretation of Marx, we may conclude that we are facing a phenomenal crisis of overproduction..This analysis highlights the laws of political economy, especially the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, as the center of gravity in the decline of capital accumulation.

Based on another interpretation of Marx, we may conclude that the current crisis must be due to insufficient subordination of labor to capital, which leads the latter to escape to other geographical spaces and seek new forms of accumulation, such as what David Harvey named “accumulation by dispossession,” which includes the supersizing of the financial system and an array of neoliberal recipes that has been applied under the influence of the Washington Consensus.  This interpretation highlights the role of class struggle, as much in the gestation as in the resolution of crises, considering it as the master key to the social order (and chaos).

The question is not whether to opt for one or the other interpretation.  Both traverse the work of Marx in a contradictory fashion. Nevertheless, among economists, politicians, and activists, the first interpretation, which we may call positivist, predominates.  This positivist interpretation tends to prioritize the crisis as something essentially alien whose consequences we, the lower orders, pay.  Accumulated evidence before us, however, should lead us to work through Marx’s maxim that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.”

In recent weeks, prominent US government officials and directors of multinationals have assured us that there are signs that the crisis has bottomed out and that it is on track to be overcome…The current crisis is an excellent opportunity to intensify the subordination of labor, as the dominant class has been doing since the enormous crisis of Fordism and Taylorism in the sixties.

At this point, however painful it may be, we must recognize that, though it’s been more than a year since the beginning of the crisis, there have been no momentous reactions on the part of workers…

Here are two assessments.  On one hand, the long experience of trade unionism has not served to strengthen the workers’ desire to go beyond capitalism.  On the contrary, it has deepened the workers’ aspiration to integrate themselves into the system…

The other assessment concerns the state and representative democracy.  The bulk of struggles waged by the Left focuses on making demands on the state or winning political spaces through participation in electoral processes…

Both the logic of trade unions and that of the state are inspired by the concept of accumulation of forces, a concept symmetrical to that of accumulation of capital.  The history of the struggles of the oppressed has shown great limitations of this concept for the purpose of opening a path toward emancipation…

There is no roadmap for how to get out of this labyrinth, largely because, as we know, it is easier to get out of error than confusion..We’ll have to rethink the rest, for, in times of systemic confusion, new forms of action must be created.

I think his assessment is pretty dead on in terms of the political state of the non-capitalist classes. He also offers two Marxian interpretations of the crisis, which are not mutually exclusive. I think the reason the second one hasn’t caught on is because it doesn’t lead to any obvious solutions, which Zabechi notes in the last paragraph.

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