Our choice of political strategies clearly depends in large part on what we think is possible and impossible in any given conditions. And what we think is possible or impossible under capitalism obviously depends on what we think capitalism is. So let me, first, make some general observations about the nature of capitalism
The word “capitalism” is typically applied to a very wide and diverse range of cases—from the United States to Japan, Russia, Brazil, or South Africa. We use the word in this way on the premise that, for all their diversities, all these cases have in common certain basic social forms and economic laws of motion, including a common tendency to crisis. And we talk about “global” capitalism on the premise that national capitalist economies are interconnected, that they are integrated in a global system driven by the same capitalist laws of motion, and that economic crises and prolonged downturns like the current one are not national in origin but are rooted in the general dynamics that drive the whole global economy and in the relations that bind all capitalist economies together
Note: We have no way of knowing what the status of the war in Yugoslavia will be when the following reaches you. Since its completion, there have been more NATO “mistakes”: the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and of many Kosovar Albanian civilians in Korisa.We can only hope that such events will bring the U.S. government and its NATO allies to their senses. But whatever happens in Yugoslavia, the global dangers posed by the United States and its long-term objectives will persist so long as this country’s imperial project remains intact
Ask anyone what single event has most decisively shaped the culture of the left in the late 20th century, and they are almost certain to tell you that it was the “collapse of Communism.” Yet look at any of the dominant intellectual currents on the left today and you will find that, even while they invoke that historic Götterämmerung, they situate the great cultural and political rupture of our era somewhere else, and earlier
One of the most well established conventions of Western culture is the association of capitalism with cities. Capitalism is supposed to have been born and bred in the city. But more than that, the implication is that any city—with its characteristic practices of trade and commerce—is by its very nature potentially capitalist from the start, and only extraneous obstacles have stood in the way of any urban civilization giving rise to capitalism. Only the wrong religion, the wrong kind of state, or any kind of ideological, political, or cultural fetters tying the hands of urban classes have prevented capitalism from springing up anywhere and everywhere, since time immemorial—or at least since technology has permitted the production of adequate surpluses
The Communist Manifesto is just that: a manifesto. It is not a long and comprehensive scholarly study but a public declaration of a political program, a short and dramatic statement of purpose and a call to arms, written at a time of political ferment, on the eve of what turned out to be the nearest thing the world had ever seen to international revolution
I’m taking the liberty of appending this note because, though Du Boff and Herman’s article is directed mainly at Bill Tabb, it refers to some of the things I’ve written about globalization.…Recently, I got a letter from Bill Doyle, who wrote, “After reading Ed Herman’s comments in Z (magazine), I re-read your article and couldn’t see why Ed was so exercised. I’d be interested to know if you see a substantial difference between the two of you, and, if so, what it is.” Here, with some minor changes and additions, is what I wrote back.
After a long period of sustained attack by governments of various stripes, a steady deterioration of working and living standards, and declines in membership and militancy, there are encouraging signs that organized labor is moving again. This may come as a surprise to many, not least on the left, who have long since written off the labor movement as an oppositional force; and it may begin to challenge some of the most widespread assumptions about the nature and direction of contemporary capitalism, assumptions often shared by activists and intellectuals on the left as well as the right.…Although it is, of course, too early to make big claims about this trend, it does seem to be a good moment to take a close look not only at these new signs of activism but also at the nature of labor today and at the environment in which the labor movement now has to navigate.
Let me start with a provocative claim, which is contrary to all the conventional wisdom. The claim I want to make is that this historical moment, the one we’re living in now, is the best not the worst, the most not the least appropriate moment to bring back Marx. I’ll even claim that this is the moment when Marx should and can come fully into his own for the first time—not excluding the historical moment when he actually lived.
Not a day goes by that we don’t see a news clip, hear a radio report, or read an article heralding the miraculous new technologies of the information age. The communication revolution associated with these technologies is often heralded as the key to a new age of “globalization.” How is all of this reshaping the labor force, transforming communications, changing the potential for democracy, and altering the course of history itself? Capitalism and the Information Age presents a rigorous examination of some of the most crucial problems and possibilities of these novel technologies.
Big changes in the global economy and world politics have put new questions on the table for labor movements around the world. Can workers regain the initiative against the tidal wave of corporate downsizing and government cutbacks? Can unions revive their ranks and reignite the public imagination? Is labor rising from the ashes?
Are we now in an age of “postmodernity”? Even as some on the right have proclaimed the “end of history” or the final triumph of capitalism, we are told by some left intellectuals that the “modern” epoch has ended, that the “Enlightenment project” is dead, that all the old verities and ideologies have lost their relevance, that the old principles of rationality no longer apply, and so on. Yet what is striking about the current diagnosis of postmodernity is that it has so much in common with older pronouncements of death, both radical and reactionary versions. What has ended, apparently, is not so much another, different epoch but the same one all over again.