[Marxism] Waiting for Gobama

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 3 12:58:53 MDT 2009

Joaquin Bustelo wrote:
> I consider Charlie Post a comrade and friend, but I disagree completely with
> him on these questions. Though I think it should be said that one of the
> most sophisticated and intelligent versions of what I might call the
> "subjectivist" explanation for the decline of the US working class movement
> is that put forward by Charlie and others associated with the Solidarity
> "rank and file" strategy in the unions. That because it does not rely on a
> deus-ex-machina "vanguard party" nor the magical ritual incantations of a
> "correct program" for effect. And when a reconstitution of a working class
> movement in this country takes place, I think it is likely to develop to a
> significant degree through the way these comrades anticipate -- the
> emergence and coming together of a more conscious/advanced layer of union
> militants. However, I find the explanation of WHY this hasn't happened
> offered by these comrades unsatisfactory.

Not that it has a direct bearing on the matters at hand, but I am 
currently reading David Roediger's "How Race Survived U.S. History" for 
a future review.

Roediger has a very interesting analysis of why capitalist production 
did not break down racism even though the theorists of "free labor" 
assumed that it would. As Roediger puts it:

"Marxist-influenced organizers who wanted to change the law [against 
white and black workers meeting together in Louisiana] succeeded in 
arguing that capitalism itself undermined race-thinking. 'Trees,' a 
Brotherhood of Timber Workers supporter assured readers, 'don't care who 
fells them. They make as good a lumber when felled by the hand of a 
negro [or] a Hindoo...as when coming from the hand of a white American 
citizen. The interests of all who work in the woods...are the same.'"

As might be clear to some, the idea that "capitalism itself undermined 
race-thinking" is consistent with the application of the Brenner thesis 
to slavery and Jim Crow that Charlie Post theorized. It creates this 
crude dichotomy between precapitalist and capitalist modes of production 
that largely fails to explain how they co-existed happily in the New 
World. For example, John Locke, who Ellen Meiksins Wood regards at the 
political philosopher par excellence of the bourgeois revolution, wrote 
the constitution of the state of South Carolina that defended slavery in 
terms of property rights.

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