[Marxism] Downturns and upturs

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Wed Mar 1 07:15:27 MST 2006

Robert Bollard wrote:


> In any case, what prompted me to write was Marvin's comparison between
> the depression and recovery in the 1930s versus the recession and
> recovery recently in the US.  I agree with just about everything he said
> but I think there are other points of difference which have militated
> against a significant revival in class struggle..  One in particular
> relates in general to the situation in, at least, all of the Anglo-Saxon
> countries.  That is the fact that the recovery has overwhelmingly been
> in the service sector - so that each time we climb out of recession the
> new jobs are not created in manufacturing - the traditional heartland of
> unionism.


> There is nothing inherently unorganisable about the service sector,
> about supermarkets, or call centres (for example).  But, you don't
> establish unionism in a new area without a core of leadership - without
> some politics.  The  historical crisis of the left has shrunk that core
> to such an extent that opportunities are being lost.  If you look at an
> explosion like the CIO in the late 1930s, it wasn't just the objective
> factors that were at work.  The intervention of a politicised minority
> was central.  Instead we are left with trade union bureaucrats whose
> idea of building is...let's just say, not what one could wish for.  And
> beneath them a chasm.  Rebuilding will happen - but in many ways the
> situation is analagous to the Nineteenth Century rather than the 1930s -
> quite apart from the economic differences.
You're right. At the subjective level, there wasn't a catalyst like the CP
was in the 30s - backed by the prestige and resources of the Soviet Union,
which was creating jobs as quickly as capitalism was losing them and whose
reputation in the international working class was as yet largely untainted
by Stalinism. The disappearance of the working class socialist movement and
the transformation of the fSU and PRC were the defining events of our
political generation, and we're still coming to grips with the implications,
one of which you've noted above.

Nevertheless, I still expect that if the system were to collapse on the
scale it did in the 30's, everything would get thrown in the air, people
would feel the need to combine and organize in order to survive, and the new
mass movements would rediscover and reconnect with their history. That
history - perhaps the richer part of it - extends well beyond the 19th
century, so I can't agree we've been thrown back that far. It might be a
more complex and indirect process in the absence of a lodestar like the USSR
and a party tied to it with a real presence in the working class and
minority communities, but mass movements can still grow and produce leaders
and parties and transform themselves quickly in periods of great change.
This is also likely the kind of period which would see the mass organization
of the service sector; if you look at previous waves of industrial
organization, they were all propelled by a broader underlying movement for
social change change inside and outside the workplace.

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