For years now commentators have predicted the collapse of the unions. This has not happened. There has been a long slow decline with areas of victories as well. Following the Trump victory speculation has been rampant and has led to various proclamations yet again of the death of labor. It is clear that Republican domination of all branches of government poses a real threat to the Democratic-party aligned unions, particularly public sector unions, and that we are entering a new era both for the working class and the vestiges of their historic organizations. Our third piece exploring the potentials for labor under trump comes from one of our editors S Nicholas Nappalos. He argues that while these dangers are real, they also come with new possibilities for a militant participatory workers movement. Moreover it is not apolitical unions that can address the weaknesses of the labor movement heading into a collision with this government, but an active politicized union movement marking its opposition to both capital and the state.
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.
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