To continue the dialogue on militant reformism, this week we post an expansive piece on the viability of reforming capitalism written by Nate Hawthorne. This week’s post dovetails with the piece from last month on the Argentinian crisis of the early 2000’s and S. N. Nappalos’ piece called Responding to the growing importance of the state in the workers’ movement.
Nate’s article first appeared in the book The End of the World as We Know It? which was edited by Deric Shannon.
Cacerolazo in Plaza de Mayo. Banner reads “ALL OF THEM MUST GO – Government of workers and neighborhood assemblies”
The Argentinian crisis at the opening of the 21st century and the aftermath of those events up to the present day are an important experience. For some of us here at Recomposition, these events relate to what we’ve discussed in terms of militant reformism, the idea of mobilizing a population to fight for reforms that would yield to an improved form of capitalism. We think we’re likely to see more of this, and with that in mind, we hope to stir up dialogue by presenting some excerpts from Sebastian Touza’s introduction to an article by Colectivo Situaciones, and then excerpts from the article “Crisis, Governmentality and New Social Conflict: Argentina as a laboratory” by the Colectivo Situaciones. Lastly we link to a piece about militant reformism by S. N. Nappalos.
From Sebastian Touza’s intro:
“Chanting ‘All of them must go!’, on December 19th and 20th, 2001, massive…Read More
Today we share an article that first appeared in Deric Shannon’s book The End of the World As We Know It? published by AK Press. “Necessary Steps in Tough Economic Times” by Marianne LeNabat, one of our editors at Recomposition, takes us through an overview of how students in recent decades have become saddled with debt, how a student movement rose up in NY during the height of OWS, some of the lessons we can draw from organized resistance, and the ripples that student fights caused spreading solidarity throughout various sectors of society.
Equilibrium & Disequilibrium
The 2008 financial crisis in the US led to a flurry of ink and predictions of world collapse of capitalism. None of that has come to be as of yet, but the significance of the crisis is still unsettled. This week’s piece comes to us from Scott Nicholas Nappalos, and argues that more than crisis we need to create the pre-conditions for collective struggles and to actively construct a new society beyond waiting for conditions to do it for us.
This week we bring you a second piece from a Starbucks worker about a firing, following Work to Rule. Part of struggle is not only the lessons and strategies, but also the experiences and the real life costs that occur when we start to take action. This submission succinctly takes us though one woman’s experience that ended too soon.
I think back to the last I worked at Starbucks on 80th and York, and recall what a beautiful day it was outside, that day was a nice break from the harsh winter we had this past year. As I walked into the store that day, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. However I still clocked in for my shift at 2:15 pm to close the store with one of new supervisors, put on the “happy barista persona” required of me, and went on the floor to work. About 15 minutes after I had clocked in I watched my supervisor Margret waltz in (15 minutes late and out of dress code) with her sister (another Starbucks partner) in tow, she had the most confused look on her face at the site of me. She said to me “Lyssa are you closing?” I looked at her with an even more confused face and responded to her. “Yeah I am. Why?” To which she replied, “So why did Jennifer have me bring my sister in to close?”
Capitalism touches every moment of our lives, and always for the worse. That’s why capitalism must be replaced with a new and better society. The state is everywhere too. But how do the two relate? What is the role of the state in maintaining capitalism? And what is the role of the state in creating a new society? Like many people, those of us who edit Recomposition want capitalism to end. We want a society where all people get what they want and need: everything for everyone. We believe that the state will not help us create this new society, and that the new society won’t have a state.
Criticism of the state has been a thread in the Industrial Workers of the World for a long time. Since the beginning of the organization in 1905, IWW members have debated over how to understand the state and how to relate to the state practically, including the rejection of the political use of elections and the state system of mediating class conflict. The organization today is culturally anti-state and most members hold these kinds of views. In my view as an IWW member, we should discuss these views more explicitly in the organization today. We should add to our Preamble that we do not see the state as a means for working class revolution nor do we see the state as having a role in the good society created by revolution.
With that in mind, this post is about the relationship between the state and capitalism, excerpted from Michael Heinrich’s excellent recent book, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital with the permission of the publishers. The core points of this excerpt are that the state is central to the life of capitalism, and that the state is not simply a tool which can be picked up and used politically. The state is not an object; it is a social relationship. These points are particularly relevant today. Today there is debate about what the state should do and how we should relate to the state among the labor movement and the left as well as both the capitalists and their governments. Among those of us seeking a better society, these debates should be informed by analysis of the relationship between the state and capitalism. – Nate Hawthorne
The campaigns of Kshama Sawant and Ty Moore have generated a lot of debate around the role of elections in overcoming capitalism. Both candidates came from Socialist Alternative, a party with roots in the broader social democratic and trotskyist traditions that moved to electoral activity relatively recently. Sawant won her election to Seattle’s city council, and Moore lost by a hair.
A changing social and political landscape is shifting the boundaries of electoral action and the relationships of radicals both to candidates and their own activity. Narrowing in on one aspect of the debate, today we will look at the contributions of three short pieces coming from Minneapolis, where Ty Moore ran his unsuccessful campaign. The authors were responding to the discussion and activity locally as people active in struggles opposed to State power all together, including efforts to capture and reform the existing capitalist State. Though we lack the space, we strongly encourage going through a fourth piece by the Black Orchid Collective in Seattle that explores similar themes in response to their own situation with the candidacy of Sawant. Also the commentary to the pieces that follow and Black Orchid contain replies both from the authors and other people active in the relevant cities, and is worth reading. The articles are listed in chronological order as they reply to one and another.
There are a few themes to focus in on. The authors debate whether or not it matters to oppose attempts to move towards socialism through elections. Within this there is a deeper debate about how close and how likely attempts to make reforms are to impede more radical alternatives. Given that a presidential election season is approaching rapidly, and militant reformism is increasingly becoming a mobile social force, these questions are likely to face us again.
Some of us struggle to articulate our core values and our main ideas in a non-specialist vocabulary. There’s a place for specialized vocabulary, but we need to challenge ourselves to be able to make our points in other vocabularies as well. The following two documents attempt this. They were written shortly after the Jimmy John’s Workers Union campaign went public in Minneapolis. The first appeared in the newsletter of the Twin Cities branch of the IWW.
Syndicalism and Anarchism, by Errico Malatesta
The relationship between the labour movement and the progressive parties is an old and worn theme. But it is an ever topical one, and so it will remain while there are, on one hand, a mass of people plagued by urgent needs and driven by aspirations – at times passionate but always vague and indeterminate – to a better life, and on the other individuals and parties who have a specific view of the future and of the means to attain it, but whose plans and hopes are doomed to remain utopias ever out of reach unless they can win over the masses. And the subject is all the more important now that, after the catastrophes of war and of the post-war period, all are preparing, if only mentally, for a resumption of the activity which must follow upon the fall of the tyrannies that still rant and rage [across Europe] but are beginning to tremble. For this reason I shall try to clarify what, in my view, should be the anarchists’ attitude to labour organisations.
It will take time for the working class as a whole to become able to liberate ourselves from capitalism. Our class has various internal problems which limit us and help keep us in our place collectively. It takes work to move us beyond these problems.
At a smaller scope – not the whole class, but smaller numbers of people within our class – and at a lower level – not the abolition of capitalism but smaller steps that move us somewhat closer to that – I think the process works similarly. We have internal problems and it takes time to move us forward.
I think it’s important for anarchists to do work that fights directly against the state, capitalists, landlords and so on. I call it mass work. I’m not attached to the term, we can call it whatever. Mass work, and particularly anarchist involvement in mass work, is important for the process of changing people, at the class level and at a smaller level.