[Marxism] NYC Meetings hear Marxist analysis of ‘Low-Wage Capitalism’
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Thu Nov 5 16:22:38 MST 2009
Meetings hear Marxist analysis of ‘Low-Wage Capitalism’
By Dee Knight
Published Nov 4, 2009 9:43 PM
Fred Goldstein, author of “Low-Wage Capitalism,” was the featured speaker at
two recent New York events: a Brecht Forum meeting and a conference of the
Union of Radical Political Economists (URPE) in Brooklyn. He was also
interviewed on radio station WBAI-FM in New York and KFAI-FM in Minneapolis.
These activities were part of the launching of the new book, a process that
began formally in September.
Another radio interview is slated for Nov. 16 on WHCR-FM in New York with
Nellie Bailey, chair of the Harlem Tenants Council. And on Nov. 22 Goldstein
will be hosted at the Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe in Harlem.
Goldstein’s talk at the radical Brecht Forum in Greenwich Village coincided
with an official announcement that the U.S. economy had finally registered
some growth in the third quarter of 2009, after two years of decline.
Goldstein seized the moment to point out that official unemployment figures
also grew in the same period, and are poised to top 10 percent. The
so-called “jobless recovery,” he observed, is a recent phenomenon,
reflecting the growing crisis of capitalism overproduction brought on by the
overall rise in the productivity of labor.
Goldstein highlighted two key causes of the decline of workers’ wages in the
imperialist countries over the past three decades.
The first was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the concomitant opening
of China and India to external capitalist penetration, resulting in a
doubling to three billion of the number of workers available for
exploitation by imperialism.
The second was the scientific and technological revolution—computers, the
Internet, supertankers, satellites and software—which have made it possible
for large corporations to create global webs of production, which he
characterized as “global chains of superexploitation.” He illustrated this
by describing how a Dell computer is made in a web of factories around the
globe, each with a cluster of suppliers that are forced to compete with each
other. These combined factors have allowed the large corporations to push
wages down drastically—and they are not yet satisfied.
In his comments on the prospects for a fightback, Goldstein noted that two
unions whose traditions are still rooted in the struggles of the 1930s have
set examples for the future: the United Electrical Workers and the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast. It is no
accident, he observed, that these two unions have defied traditional
“business unionism” methods.
UE Local 1110 carried out the seizure and occupation of Republic Doors and
Windows in Chicago last fall, while the ILWU staged a one-day shutdown of
West Coast ports on May Day, 2008, to protest the war in Iraq. It is notable
that in the plant occupation at Republic Doors and Windows, immigrant and
women workers took the lead. And in the port shutdown, a large percentage of
the workers were African-American. These developments reflect a significant
change in the makeup of the working class.
Goldstein also highlighted the importance of labor-community alliances, not
only to confront the bosses and the government but also to loosen the grip
of union officials who are caught in the old patterns of “labor peace” and
Both of Goldstein’s presentations were captured digitally by People’s Video
Network and will be available soon both at www.workers.org and on YouTube.
The same is true for the radio interviews.
Other aspects of the ongoing launch of “Low-Wage Capitalism” include its
presentation at a forum of progressive intellectuals in Europe by Workers
World managing editor John Catalinotto and anticipated reviews in a number
of progressive publications. Goldstein’s plans include visits to conferences
and bookstores across the country during the coming year.
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