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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Seymour’

The disarticulation of the US working class: Introduction; Unions and strikes

August 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Introduction

This post is the first in an occasional series on the disarticulation of the US working class during the neoliberal phase of capitalism. I have used (but certainly not invented) this term to describe a totality of social phenomena that have qualitatively altered the political landscape on which revolutionaries operate. The word “disarticulation” means “to become disjointed,” which is to my mind evocative of the state of the class; the word also suggests an inability to speak (articulate) one’s mind. At the same time, it doesn’t go far as to suggest the disappearance of the “class-in-itself” or its dissolution into a multitude, precariat, or whatever. What is disarticulated can be rearticulated; indeed, the latter is precisely the process to which this series aims to contribute in one way or another.

I am not a professional sociologist or historian, and hence unable to give full-time attention to this inquiry, so these writings will inevitably exhibit a certain amateurish quality. This is unfortunate, but I can at least hope to spur discussion among more qualified and/or informed comrades.

The series will be, by and large, critical and “negative.” This is primarily because the situation of the US working class is, objectively, very bad. It is secondarily because revolutionary Marxists in the US have, in their basically admirable quest to spread the “Good News” about socialism, rendered themselves fairly conservative–even defensive–in their theoretical and strategic thinking. (As an experiment, try telling one of us that Trotsky’s theory of the united front has basically fuck-all to do with contemporary American political conditions. You are bound to give offense, even though you would be manifestly correct.) This backward-looking defensiveness must be broken through; Marxists must again become capable of integrating the moments of truth in non- or anti-Marxist research, even if we reject the conclusions. We must reunite “pessimism of the intellect” with “optimism of the will.”

Comrades who demand of every critic or dissident to see their “positive alternative” right away have not, I think, really understood the dialectical method. Progress is achieved through negations, not via “side-by-side comparison” in some “marketplace of ideas.” So to those who would ask me, “Where would your analysis leave us?” I can only answer: “It would leave us where we already are; but at least we would know it.”

These ideas were initially presented in two documents for the 2013 National Convention of the International Socialist Organization. These were co-authored with another comrade; while I gratefully acknowledge his contributions, the opinions expressed in this series are entirely my responsibility.

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L’Ordre de la Terre Plate

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I consider myself a relatively sophisticated American when it comes to understanding other countries. For instance, I know that there are other countries, and I could probably name, like, twelve without going on Wikipedia. But even I was surprised by Merkel and Sarkozy’s proposal that every eurozone country adopt a balanced budget amendment into its constitution.

As my fellow Americans will recall, the Balanced Budget Amendment–in America it’s important enough to capitalize–is an old hobby-horse of the Republican Party, which the nation will have the pleasure of debating once again thanks to Obama Mission Control’s latest 11-dimensional chess move in re: the debt ceiling. The BBA has always struck me as a kind of dull-witted nostalgia for a plainly false idea, the macroeconomic equivalent of flat earth astrophysics or the Latin Mass. But now that the French and Germans have embraced it, I guess I’ll have to give it a second look; for like all half-educated Americans, I consider Europe practically the brand label of humane enlightenment.

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