[Marxism] Of victory and victories
sartesian at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 15 09:55:20 MST 2008
I think Greg misuses the term "economist" here [among other things]. My experience with the
term is that it applies to an analysis that argues that struggles over wages and other
economic benefits, on or off the shop floor, are sufficient for the development of class
consciousness and social revolution.
That is certainly not my position. My position is that in fact we can, as Marx always
maintained, locate the origins of a social struggle in the social relations of production,
in a conflict between the means and relations of production. That is not economism as the struggle
is in origin and must become manifest as a social struggle over the actual organization of
Now if the transformation of Southern agriculture, its mechanization under the pressure of WW2 and after,
if expanding urban migration of African-Americans to cities in the South and North, and entry into
the urban labor force don't represent, precipitate, drive a conflict between means, and the
archaic relations of tenant farming and share-cropping-- the outmoded relations of latifundismo
that tether and restrict social labor,.. THEN we need to explain and locate the material origins
for this struggle somewhere else, and we need to explain why it, the civil rights movement occurred
when it did, became a social movement, and just as importantly, why it did NOT occur in a previous era.
I actually think the old saw of "black and white unite fight" qualifies as economism in that it
defines the struggle as relevant only in the work place and never grasps, approaches, the social
relations that define labor, and determine the different histories of sections of the class.
For example, in Douglas Blackmon's great book SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, he describes the struggle of
the UMW at Tennessee Coal,Iron & Railroad Co. in 1908 just after its takeover by US Steel. He writes
that "seven thousand free miners were on strike-- this time joined by five hundred free black miners,
many of whom had been brought in as strikebreakers during earlier labor unrest and had never been
welcomed by a union run by white men. Now hundreds of miners swarmed the entryways of the mines,
harassing any workers and threatening to break free convicgts as they moved from the mines to their
Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Co. was one of the foremost, if not the foremost consumer of
indentured black labor ["hiring" black "convicts" to labor in order to pay off their "fines" and court
In order to win its struggle the UMW had to do more than "unite" with black miners-- it had to oppose
the entire structure of indentured black labor that was restored and expanded after the defeat of
Reconstruction, and which gave rise to the "New South" as it was also called a century ago.
The UMW did not. The strike obviously was defeated.
But this is far afield, although maybe not, from the original focus of the discussion-- which was
the factory occupation in Chicago. The actions of the factory owners were precipitated not by the
workers Latino origins, but by the general economic and social ramification of the falling rate of profit
We can link social struggles with these changes in capital. We cannot collapse them into such changes,
but we can certainly see, analyze, how such changes ripple and roar through society, creating and changing
the terms of class struggle.
That's not economism. That's historical materialism.
Now if Greg wants to claim that yes, the "democratic, national" struggle is transitional and
"we are still in it," that begs the question. The question is, is such a struggle sufficient?
And if not what steps must be taken to effect the transition. I think the workers in Chicago took
that step, halting, qualified, incomplete as it might be.
>From: Greg McDonald <sabocat59 at mac.com>
>Sent: Dec 15, 2008 10:49 AM
>To: sartesian at earthlink.net
>Subject: [Marxism] Of victory and victories
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