Recomposition is subtitled “notes for a new workerism.” We take the phrase “new workerism” from this piece written by Alex Erikson before we started Recomp. This piece was originally circulated at the US Social Forum. We’re glad to put it up here. Alex advocates an emphasis on workplace organizing and an orientation toward some historical experiences that he believes contain resources for us in the present, including the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and various groups who have practiced what they called industrial concentration.
A New Workerism: Capitalist Crisis, Proletarianization, and the Future of the Left
by Alex Erikson
I. The Crisis
In fall of 2008, capitalism underwent its worst market crash since 1929, leading to the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Nearly two years and over $11 trillion in bailout funds later, financial capitalism has stabilized. But while the worst of the crisis for our capitalist masters seems to have passed, it is clear that the crash of 2008 was only the beginning of the worst for the North American working class. Since the onset of the crisis, over 1 million homes have been foreclosed, 8.7 million workers have been thrown out of work, leading to a real unemployment rate hovering around 20% which translates into at least 30 million people in the US without jobs, with many more without sufficient employment. While corporations have seized on the recession to demand bailouts from the federal government, they have used the crisis as a pretext to slash benefits, freeze wages, and reduce staffing. In the last two years, despite the decline in consumer spending, productivity increased by over 7% in the last quarter of 2009 due to management’s ability to intensify exploitation of workers who are held hostage by the threat of layoff.
US elites seized on the economic crisis as a pretext to impose a “Shock Doctrine” acceleration of trends that began in the 1970s with the rise of capitalist globalization. Since the late 1970s, multinational corporations have battered the North American working class with union-busting, outsourcing of jobs, deindustrialization and automation, stagnant wages, and cuts to social services. The result of these trends is the fundamental remaking of the global capitalist production system, resulting in the destruction of working class communities in much of the United States and the disappearance of what once was the US middle class. The economic crisis has now given the green light to corporate elites to launch an even more aggressive offensive against workers. Continue reading