Synopsis on Social Unions

The Structural Crisis of Capital and the Conception of Social Unions

[extra to text]

the socialist offensive under the conditions of its new historical actuality…..implies also the necessity to face up to the major challenge of being compelled to embark on such an offensive within the framework of the existing institutions of the working class, which happened to be defensively constituted, under very different historical conditions, in the past. Both going beyond capital and envisaging a socialist offensive are paradigm issues of a transition to socialism.

[Beyond Capital, Meszaros, I. pp.937-38].

What is at stake, then, is the constitution of an organisational framework capable not only of negating the ruling order but simultaneously also of exercising the vital positive functions of control, in the new form of self-activity and self-management, if the socialist forces are to break the vicious circle of capital’s social control and their own negative/defensive dependency on it

[Ibid, p.941].

[1] The notion of socialist pluralism in Beyond Capital contains implicitly, in undeveloped form, the general conception of the social union. Social unions would be “inherently pluralist” organisations in which the constituent cells would preserve their “autonomous, self-managing” character whilst “securing the active involvement of all those concerned” in order to supersede “acknowledged existing differences and inequalities” in practice rather than seeking to preserve them through a “fictitious and arbitrarily enforced ‘unity'”. Such an organisation would “arise precisely from the ability of the participating forces to combine into a coherent whole, with ultimately inescapable socialist implications, a great variety of demands and partial strategies which in and by themselves need not have anything specifically socialist about them at all”. And such an organisation would be “impossible without the elaboration of specific strategies and ‘mediations’, arising from the particular determinations of changing needs and circumstances, which represent the greatest challenge to contemporary Marxist theory”. And, very importantly, they would integrate the “totality of social demands, from the most immediate ‘non-socialist’ everyday concerns to those openly questioning capital’s social order as such, into a theoretically coherent as well as instrumentally/ organisationally viable strategic alternative” [703] They would bring together the proletariat with its “‘non-socialist’ everyday concerns” and the “most enlightened elements of the proletariat” which does not mean a collection of self-appointed vanguardist, sectarian groupings (in the manner of a “socialist alliance”) but may, on the other hand, incorporate individuals from such groupings.

This conception of a Social Union would also accommodate a changed conception of the proletariat (arising out of a critique of Marx’s conception of the proletariat) in its present global situation and changed occupational structure. The workers’ council was more associated with the organised industrial proletariat i.e. with those workers engaged in productive industrial labour (reproducing the value of the variable capital advanced as well as producing surplus value). In the present global situation, of course, millions work in the “service sector” and there are the so-called “professional” workers like medics, clerical staff, engineers, education sector, etc. who are now proletarianised i.e. they can only survive by selling their capacity to labour (if they are fortunate enough to find it) whether that is simple, unskilled labour or more complex, “compounded”, skilled and highly technicalised labour. Globally there is now a polarisation of “productive” and “unproductive” labour in that the mass transfer of value from the “third world” arises out of the superexploitation of wage labour in these regions and serves to propagate those “consumerist” service “industries” in the “first world”. This transfer of value to the ‘metropolitan’ capitalist countries ‘cushions’, to a certain degree, employed and unemployed workers in these countries. The unfolding of the structural crisis of global capital tends to remove this ‘cushion’ with the increasing tendency towards the downward equalisation of the rate of exploitation of labour. The rate of exploitation of workers in the major capitalist countries tends to increase towards that of workers in the “third world”. And if, under the changing global conditions of the reproduction of capital, they are not employable (i.e. exploitable), then, increasingly, the pauperisation of the many millions we see in the “third world” awaits them: de te fabula narratur.

This is why the conception of a Social Union against Capital is a more appropriate, more all-embracing and more “concrete” (greater diversity, richness of social composition, within the unity) formation than a workers’ council and would reflect the changed global conditions and altered occupational structure of the proletariat and the proletarianisation of wage workers who otherwise in previous times would have been considered to be “middle class” rather than part of the proletariat. In other words, a social union as opposed to a trade union or workers’ council is more embracing, unifies a greater diversity of workers into a single body and transcends traditional lines between “white” and “blue collar”, manual and professional, men and women, industrial and service worker, trade unionised and non-trade unionised worker, local and migrant worker, etc.

[2] The organisational framework of a social union will bring together all those individuals, groups and organisations being attacked by capital and its state power: bringing together trade unionised and non-unionised workers, the unemployed, benefits claimants, public sector workers, migrant workers, students, young and old, the homeless, community and campaign groups, small business people, the ‘professions’ etc. Inclusiveness, mutual support and solidarity would be the watchwords of such an organisation. The democracy, structures, relations, etc of the organisation would arise out of the entry and participation of its various components as they bring their experiences of struggle, etc into its midst. Only in this way can a rich political culture of participation be established and developed. This is, for example, in contrast to the sect which pre-establishes its ‘constitution’, structures, program and demands, etc, in the vague hope that it will attract sufficient members to make its constitution and program seem viable.

[3] The structure and organisation of the ‘centre’, of the ‘agency’ of revolution: To be structured and organised ‘horizontally’, democratically, consensually, in which the democracy of the ‘centre’ is organic and intrinsic. As opposed to the ‘party’ or ‘soviet bureaucratic’ type centre structure which is ‘vertical’, hierarchical, superimposed with an arisen, alienated, demarcated centre.

The form of revolutionary agency that may emerge from the coalescence of the different struggles, organisations and campaigns against the destructive manifestations of capital’s crisis would, initially, probably constitute itself as an umbrella-type organisation, a sort of ‘social union’ fighting against the devastating effects of capital’s crisis on the natural and cultural conditions of human life and articulating the need to defend and preserve these conditions for the future society. It would, therefore, be a continuation of previous activity but now at a qualitatively higher level involving mutual support and development.

In its ‘pluralistic’ composition and activity, it would reflect both the immediate partial interests of its component parts and the long term aims and objectives (‘reconciliation of immediate interest and long term aim’ Meszaros) of the proletariat in its historic struggle to break the political power of capital and to go beyond capital itself.

[4] We could, perhaps, envisage the seeds (embryonic elements) of the formation of such coalition bodies through the creation of alliances between different organisations, campaigns and groups. There would be mutual support for the separate demands of each component of the coalition whilst, at the same time, pressing ahead on discussions and agreement on overarching demands to which all components of the alliance could subscribe. It may only start with a few groups/campaigns but as the benefits of this mutual support alliance were realised by each of the components working together as a whole, then it would possibly attract new groups and individuals to join. A steady growth may see the transition from a mere alliance or coalition of a few groupings towards a larger, umbrella-type organisation and then later, conditions permitting, towards a more-embracing, wider, ‘organisational framework’ against capital.

Allliances could be provisional at first but the advantage afforded to each member component by such a mutual support system of organisation could attract more groups and individuals into a larger, more permanent cohesive totality. Each campaign would maintain its autonomy of action whilst, at the same time, receiving support from, and working to support, other component members and the growth of the ‘union’ as a whole.

The structures and procedures of the organisation would be based on, and decided through, a system of open and transparent democracy, election, recall, accountability and dismissability.

The ‘advantages’ and ‘benefits’ gained for all its members by the emergence and ‘evolution’ of this type of organisation would be socially ‘selected’, facilitating its consolidation and further development. Herein the separate ‘liberal’ demands would become ‘conjointly socialist demands’ and later capable of challenging the capital system. The emergence and the sustainability of the momentum of such a movement  presupposes a deepening and intensification of the unfolding structural crisis of capital i.e. the historical ground and conditions would have to be such that the conflicts and antagonisms of the developing crisis would be the ‘motor’ or ‘engine’ for the birth and continuous propagation and development of such a movement.

[5] Confronting the destructive consequences of capital’s rule is not necessarily identical with confronting that rule itself. There is a real distinction here, a gap which needs to be bridged. And this is where the question of agency comes into its own as does the seminal importance of the concept of socialist pluralism developed in Beyond Capital. Essentially, the

meaning of socialist pluralism – the active engagement in common action, without compromising but constantly renewing the socialist principles which inspire the overall concerns – arises precisely from the ability of the participating forces to combine into a coherent whole, with ultimately inescapable socialist implications, a great variety of demands and partial strategies which in and by themselves need not have anything specifically socialist about them at all [Beyond Capital, p.700].

Meszaros then makes the important point that….

the most urgent demands of our times, directly corresponding to the vital needs of a great variety of social groups – (…..) – are, without one single exception such that, in principle, every genuine liberal could wholeheartedly embrace them. It is rather different, though, when we consider them not as single issues, in isolation, but jointly, as parts of the overall complex that constantly reproduces them as unrealised and systematically unrealisable demands [Ibid, p.700].

….it is the condition of their realisation that ultimately decides the issue, (defining them in their plurality as conjointly socialist demands) and not their character considered separately. Consequently, what is at stake is not the elusive ‘politicisation’ of these separate concerns through which they might in the end fulfil a direct political function in a socialist strategy, but the effectiveness of asserting and sustaining such largely self-motivating ‘non-socialist’ demands on the broadest possible front [pp.700-01].

And this ties in with his assertion later on that

what is at stake, then, is the constitution of an organisational framework capable not only of negating the ruling order but simultaneously also of exercising the vital positive functions of control, in the new form of self-activity and self-management, if the socialist forces are to break the vicious forces of capital’s social control and their own negative/defensive dependency on it.

[p.941, Beyond Capital, Part Four, section IV. Radical Politics and Transition to Socialism: Reflections on Marx’s Centenary]

Here we have a theoretical framework on which to base and develop our conceptions in regard to the question of agency and the emergence of the abovesaid opposition movements to the destruction and havoc being wreaked by capital in its unfolding crisis.

It is precisely within this activity in common of ‘constantly renewing socialist principles’ and through the ‘ability of the participating forces to combine into a coherent whole……a great variety of demands and partial strategies’ that the real steps forward will be made on the formation of revolutionary agency. To ‘define them in their plurality as conjointly socialist demands’ by ‘asserting and sustaining’ them ‘on the broadest possible front’ is the start of ‘the constitution of an organisational framework capable not only of negating the ruling order…etc.’ Herein lies the linkage between those movements now emerging to oppose the effects of capital’s crisis and the beginnings of the organs of political and social revolution, of revolutionary agency.

[6] Without confronting the destructive consequences of the rule of global capital prior to the conquest of power by the proletariat there can be no emergence of an ‘organisational framework’ for revolution. Nevertheless, such confrontation taken in itself will be insufficient in the long run, however vital and indispensable the ‘negativity’ of this process of confrontation, in its diverse forms, is in generating the conditions necessary for the formation of the required revolutionary agency.

This ‘pluralistic’ process of confrontation has, in the form of various campaigns and movements, already begun and will inevitably intensify. The overriding consideration here is not ‘pluralism’ per se but rather how this ‘pluralism’ of the historical movement of the proletariat against capital can be articulated –  i.e. posited in its negativity – into a coherent form of organisation which can form the basis for revolution. The conception to inform how we engage is not simply pluralism per se but socialist pluralism.

To employ a musical analogy, there is ‘pluralism’ in an orchestra. Here woodwind, there brass, this side percussion, this place for strings, etc. And, of course, without this ‘pluralism’ there is no orchestral music. However, if each section follows its own score and does not play from a common sheet and, moreover, if the orchestra is without conduction, co-ordination and musical direction what results is not music but cacophony.  Without the origination and development of an intrinsic, non-sectarian, organic element or historical force arising within the relations between these ‘pluralities’, which co-ordinates and constitutes the ‘pluralities’ into a fighting socialist unity of revolution, what will result is not revolution but ‘disarray and defeat’.

[7] This ‘organic element’ cannot be ‘parachuted’ into or imposed on the ‘pluralities’ from ‘without’ but must necessarily arise and crystallise out within the movement of the relations between these ‘pluralities’ so as to constitute an ‘organisational framework’ on the solid ground of the whole movement. In regard to this, the sect seeks to substitute its programme for the movement as a whole rather than merging with that movement to enrich it. Marx himself spoke of the ‘socialist sectarianism’ of his time and recommended that it integrated itself with the class movement as a whole rather than trying to preach to it from its various pulpits.

Thus, this ‘negativity’ of ‘radical pluralistic’ confrontation, without bringing together this pluralism into a coherent positive ‘organisational framework’ for revolution, is one which will recurrently dissipate and disperse in the whirlpool of global capital’s crisis no matter how often it rises to confront the effects of this crisis.

Without taking on board this fundamental consideration of a coherent organisational framework, the concept of ‘pluralism’ gets us no further up the road towards the required agency. The fragmentary character of the emerging movements against the devastating results of capital’s reproduction must be overcome if the aims of these movements are to be fully realised. Capital functions as a unitary global socio-economic and political power over the proletariat. To truly challenge its rule is to challenge this unitary power itself.

For example, factory occupations, struggles to oppose environmental destruction, formation of anti-capitalist and anti-militarist ‘networking’ through the internet, trade unions strikes against cuts in public provision, etc, are all movements opposing the effects of capital’s structural crisis on the natural and cultural conditions necessary for the future society. These are ways of trying to preserve and develop these conditions and they constitute the nascent material for the formation of revolutionary agency. However, in their separation and fragmentation from each other – regardless of how militant and radical they may be – they cannot challenge the global unitary power of capital. The different capitals compete against each other globally but they all constitute themselves as a singular power when it comes to their common interest. They are, unlike the proletariat, acutely conscious of the substantiality of common interest and rush to each other’s defence in times of crisis when the capital order is truly threatened. It is only when these movements opposing the manifestations of capital’s crisis come into relation with each other within an ‘organisational framework’ that they then have the potential to challenge this unitary global power of the capital order. And it is only within this context that…

the elementary condition of success of the socialist project is its inherent pluralism. It sets out from the acknowledgement of the existing differences and inequalities; not to preserve them (which is a necessary concomitant of all fictitious and arbitrarily enforced ‘unity’) but to supersede them in the only viable form: by securing the active involvement of all those concerned” [Beyond Capital, p.699].

This is….

impossible without the elaboration of specific strategies and ‘mediations’, arising from the particular determinations of changing needs and circumstances, which represent the greatest challenge to contemporary Marxist theory [Ibid, p.699].

These ‘most urgent demands of our times’ and the forces behind them can no longer be ‘incorporated into capital’s objective dynamics of self-expansion’. They must and will motivate the struggles ‘for the foreseeable future’.

The notion of the creation of ‘a genuinely pluralist framework of common action’ [p.702] indicates the direction in which we have to move, to actively engage for the purpose of establishing the necessary form of revolutionary agency in the unfolding of the ‘socialist offensive’.

Moreover, it is paramount to note that the historically defensive conditions of the past meant that Marxists had a tendency to focus ‘on the general principles of the socialist alternative’. Under the changed conditions which are becoming increasingly offensive this ‘declaration of faith… in the abstract…. is completely out of place’ [pp.702-03]. The need to integrate the…

totality of social demands, from the most immediate ‘non-socialist’ everyday concerns to those openly questioning capital’s social order as such, into a theoretically coherent as well as instrumentally/organisationally viable strategic alternative [Beyond Capital, p.703]

now comes into view on the historical horizon as a most urgent task.

Thus, the real issue is how to set firmly an overall direction to follow while fully acknowledging the constraining circumstances and the power of immediacy opposed to ideal shortcuts [p.703]

[8] It is, accordingly, a question of establishing a form of agency which will not simply define its objectives and adopt ‘narrow economic’ measures within the terms and parameters of the capital order but rather in terms which challenge and point beyond that order rather than patching or shoring it up.

The actual duration of the ‘historical moment’ (Meszaros) depends on the nature of the crisis itself, whether it is cyclical or structural, on the degree of its severity for the capital order, whether it is a stage in the unfolding crisis, whether or not the whole crisis is reaching its highest point of development, whether the eruption of its contradictions can be temporarily ameliorated by the state, etc.

So a ‘moment’ could be literally days or it could, possibly, stretch out into weeks or even months depending on the character of the crisis. Bearing in mind that here we are referring to the unfolding of a structural crisis of the capital relation, we cannot exclude the possibility that this ‘historical moment of radical politics’ will not be ‘fleeting’ at all but could be more like the unfolding of a long drawn out, continuously deepening, determinate crisis-process in which different stages and phases of this crisis-process pass into higher ones with the emergence of qualitatively new, higher ‘temporal determinations’, material relations and characteristics as the crisis worsens. In other words, a whole new determinate stage opens up and unfolds which is characterised by phenomena and struggles which were previously unthinkable in the earlier phases of the maturation of capital’s structural crisis.

A simple analogy might the start of a forest fire. Initially the fire might develop and spread relatively slowly and, to a certain extent, is containable by the authorities. But a sudden marked shift in conditions, for example very hot weather accompanied by high winds, would very rapidly transform the situation to the point where the fire becomes an uncontrollable firestorm. This latter stage becomes a determinately and qualitatively diffferent stage of development of the fire compared to the initial containable phase.

This is a consideration of fundamental importance because it impacts on the emergence and evolution of the character of the agency of revolution itself. The revolutionary agency would be unsustainable if it were simply a loose, merely ‘interfacial’, confederation of different organisations and campaigns, etc, without a coherently established and functioning ‘organisational framework’ which constitutes a unification through participation of its various components. Under the weight of such conditions of crisis, a loose, informal federation would be more likely to disintegrate whereas the overarching, determinate organisation of some kind of established ‘union’, as long as it is adaptable and able to be re-structured ‘en route’, would be more likely to maintain its cohesion as it moves into the ‘breach’. In other words, there must be a real, determinate, substantial organisational and participatory coherence of the ‘pluralities’ and not simply a formal conferentiality in which the ‘pluralities’ merely ‘interface’ rather than organically integrating whilst maintaining their distinction within the established organisational and participatory coherence. It is only in this political coherence that objectives which point beyond the age of capital can be developed, refined and fought for against the political power of capital itself.

[9] Another very important observation for this whole question of agency concerns the relation between ‘radical politics’ and the ‘social body’. We read that…

to succeed in its original aim, radical politics must transfer at the height of the crisis its aspirations – in the form of effective powers of decision-making at all levels and in all areas, including the economy – to the social body itself from which subsequent material and political demands would emanate. This is the only way in which radical politics could sustain its own line of strategy, instead of militating against it [p.951, Beyond Capital].

Here – as I see it – there is a need for a more concrete clarification of terms. What is actually meant by the terms ‘radical politics’ and ‘social body’?

It seems to me that some of the terms themselves in Beyond Capital in this section are not concretely characterised enough and are too generalised so as to render them open to an interpretation in which misunderstanding and confusion becomes possible. ‘Radical politics’ and ‘social body’ are, I suggest respectfully, examples of two such terms.

Since ‘radical politics’ does not mean a small vanguardist cabal of left sectarians, in this contribution the term ‘radical politics’ is taken to mean the agency of revolution itself whose relationship with the ‘social body’ is taken to be its relationship with the proletariat as whole in its various productive and non-productive activities.

Implicitly, the actual transfer takes place through the activity of the agency of revolution which also implies an organic relationship between this agency and the proletariat as a whole. Without this organic relationship there can be no transfer and this remains a fundamental part of the whole question of agency to be addressed. The development of the conception of agency must therefore grapple with the very concrete nature of this ‘organic relationship’

[10] It is precisely because the unfolding of capital’s structural crisis fills every channel, every tributary and capillary of society, infusing itself and its effects into every aspect, without exception, of the life and relationships of society, that the formation of these organs (‘revolutionary agency’, ‘unions of society against capital’, ‘social unions against capital’) of political and social revolution becomes necessary to defend the natural and socio-cultural conditions of the future human society which capital’s crisis is destroying.

The very nature of this structural crisis of capital, the widening of its extensive and especially the deepening of its intensive character, on a global scale, therefore gives rise to the social need for such organisations which confront capital as society’s representative bodies par excellence, bringing these bodies into direct conflict with the capitalist state itself. Capital’s structural crisis constitutes the historic ground for their social necessity, for their sociogenesis. This defence of the natural and socio-cultural conditions of human life would, sooner or later, pass into an offensive process to appropriate the powers of capital in the midst of the latter’s crisis. These organs would commence this process because they could do no other as the crisis and its effects worsened. It is, therefore, this crisis which would animate the taking over of capital’s powers and the start, at the same time, of the restucturing of the socio-economic metabolism towards a socialist one beyond capital. This intensely political process would inevitably generate the most tenacious opposition from the state power of capital.

It is not that – in a concatenated fashion – crisis must give birth to these revolutionary organs and then the conquest of state power must occur prior to the re-structuring of the socio-economic metabolism. Rather it would have to be the initiation of a struggle, by these proletarian organs, in response to capital’s crisis, to appropriate and deploy its powers to begin to resolve the crisis by pointing beyond capital which would simultaneously bring on the conflict over who rules. And only when the state power of capital is defeated, would the vista truly open up for a complete, generalised, extensive and intensive restructuring of the socio-economic metabolism to go beyond capital.

Therefore, within the selfsame spatio-temporality, the revolutionary agency would not only begin to restructure the socio-economic landscape but also prepare politically to mobilise against the state power of capital which itself would be, under such conditions, actively preparing counter measures. The antagonisms created between the revolutionary agency and the state power of capital over who rules would serve to accelerate the dynamic towards revolution. In the course of the unfolding of such a dynamic, the historic tasks facing the revolutionary agency would arise and be addressed in practice. The quintessential tasks therefore facing the revolutionary agency would be the elimination of the political power of capital – beginning with its state power – and the commencement of the invasion into and liquidation of the capital relation itself and alteration of its associated infrastructure in order to start to go beyond capital towards communist human life.

For example, starting to break the grip of commodity production and the market by uncoupling production from exchange so that production is planned, re-structured and re-directed towards distribution to meet both social and individual needs.

[11] The above set of provisional notes/analysis, if it ‘holds water’, suggests that the agency of revolution must be both a mass movement for socio-cultural transformation which has become established as a determinate and coherent ‘organisational framework’ prior to the overthrow of the capitalist state whilst simultaneously being the active organ of political revolution capable of negating the state power of capital. It is not merely a political body like a party or ‘movement’ which defeats the capitalist state through the organisation of a military struggle and war. Rather it constitutes itself as a socio-cultural singularity in which socio-economic, political and other roles and functions would arise out of it as demanded according to the changing conditions and development of the struggle to put an end to the age of capital.

The alteration, adaptation or modification of the agency of revolution or even its complete replacement by qualitatively distinct, new forms of organisation (‘not dependent on the negated object’) which are more adequate for changes or transformations in conditions (‘re-structuring en route’) will be decided by ‘mass activity’ and prosecuted through the ‘agency’ of the masses according to the conditions prevailing at the time. The constant ‘self-criticism’ to which revolutions subject themselves must therefore necessarily involve this constant ‘re-structuring en route’ i.e. the criticism is not merely a ‘critical criticism’ but a revolutionary criticism which provides for, and actually organises, the real process of this material re-structuring en route. The capacity of the masses to proceed with these ongoing processes of organisational self-supersedence when the time comes to move on illustrates that it is they who are ‘in charge’ and not an aloof party machine or conservative, ossified state structures like bureaucratised soviets.

Needless to say, whatever form the agency of revolution may take, a worked conception of its historical tenure would be required in order to adequately gauge the historical moment when it can be safely superseded (left behind), without any threat of the restoration of the political power of capital.

However, even when the state is ‘overthrown’, the ‘power’ of capital remains just by its continued presence and by any remnants of the process of commodification in the social metabolism and this can generate reactionary and restorationist trends in its favour until social revolution eradicates capitalist commodity production completely from the social metabolism. Indeed, for the state to be in the final phase of ‘withering away’ (i.e. for society to finally dispense with the state once and for all) implies an advanced stage of development of the struggle against capitalist commodity production to the point even where that struggle itself is becoming rendered increasingly unnecessary and thereby redundant. After all, an emergent, stateless, global human society is the beginnings of a communist human life. The global capitalist epoch has been well and truly left behind as communist society starts to mediate its own development on its own self-created foundations. Thus, whilst capital retains political power in any significant part of the globe, there will be a need for defensive measures at least and this implies state organisation in one form or another, no matter how transient.

[12] Finally, what are, or rather how are we to determine what are, the present-day tasks of ‘the most enlightened members of the working class’ (Marx)? (See quotes from Meszaros at the beginning of the notes)

How do we determine our actions, i.e how do we determine what these present tasks are? Surely orientation according to strategic perspective is fundamental here? If there is no perspective whatsoever here then it is as if we are thrashing around in the water, running from one event to the next and simply pre-occupied with the ‘immediate’ rather having a mindful eye on and towards the ‘mediate’, i.e. what is coming into being.

However, if we gauge and orientate ourselves exclusively by worked out perspectives this has a real danger of simply overlooking the immediate. It takes on a sectarian character. Hence in our work we have to bring together the immediate tasks confronting the class under the prevailing conditions with those perspectives based on a grasp of the general trajectory of the crisis of capital, a fusion or synthesis of both in our work. To neglect or focus on one at the expense of the other is to either become lost in the immediacy of the ‘economism’ of the moment or to daydreamily divorce oneself from the present day tasks by waiting around for the conditions for perspectives to materialise.

To make the connection in both theoretical work and practical activity is surely the most difficult problem currently facing the ‘most enlightened members of the working class’? To do this means to bring together (synthesise) what we actually do now, at this present stage in the unfolding of the crisis, with the struggle for the agency/organs of revolution to go beyond the state power of capital and this relation itself.  To actually make this ‘connection’ means to participate in the present struggles (e.g. a strike, campaigns, etc) not simply in order that they shall be successful but to participate in order to politically mediate the realisation of perspectives. The questions and worsening problems of the immediate situation confronting the proletariat can be truly addressed and resolved, under the conditions of the deepening crisis of the capital order, only by tactically developing the overall strategic perspective of the overthrow of the state power of capital and the eradication of the capital relation from the life of the social metabolism itself. But central and indispensable to this perspective is the question of agency. It is question which cannot be left unanswered any longer as capital opens up its offensive against the full panoply of public provision which the proletariat has historically taken for granted but which must now disappear into the whirlpool of capital’s inexorable crisis-movement.

Shaun May

January 2011

[1] Meszaros, I. Beyond Capital : Towards A Theory of Transition. Merlin Press, London 1995.(approx 1000pp)

Meszaros’s work represents a fundamental, ground-breaking and important development for socialism. It is an essential study for all those who want to see an end to the age of the rule of capital.

More accessible works by Meszaros, The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time : Socialism in the 21st Century (2008) and The Structural Crisis of Capital (2010). Also his seminal work Marx’s Theory of Alienation (1975, 4th Edition) which is a demanding read but well worth the intellectual effort to understand it.

See also my contribution, The Structural Crisis of Capital and the Question of Agency on this wordpress site.


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