[Marxism] More on why workers no longer strike, and why owners of capital act with virtual impunity

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Sun Jan 6 21:19:20 MST 2013

[Sober thoughts for the new year:

Why there's no left? We know what's reported below, sent to me by Mike 
Munk; it's largely true, but no one on the left appears to know what to 
do about it. Not only that, but we have to take the current, sputtering 
US west coast dock workers strike as an example and compare it to, as 
Paul Mattick says, the docks in Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, 
which now operate with just a handful of workers in an almost totally 
automated workplace. And for the same basic reason, Mattick in a forum 
in November said that according to ILO statistics there has not been one 
new job in manufacturing added in China in the last ten years, because 
in the southern edge of the country where so much industry and foreign 
capital is concentrated and where expansion is greatest, they're using 
the latest technology.

Mattick points out a salient difference between the turbulent situation 
of workers in 19th century capitalism as compared with today: the left 
as it existed in the 19th century had gone out of existence by the 
middle of the 20th century. "I don't think that it was because the 
nature of capitalism was clearer then; I think it was because capitalism 
was new then; they had undergone this very rapid transformation from 
pre-capitalist to capitalist society. But they had one key to all this, 
which was the central importance of the ideas of the French Revolution 
to socialist thinking in the 19th century, even the early 20th century, 
and the example of the tremendous social upheaval that created a new 
society was something that was only a generation or two generations in 
the past. We now have had two hundred years or three hundred years of 
capitalism. People born in this era have not had anything like this 
experience. It seems as though capitalism has always been there and will 
always be there, and that is a very different setting in which people 
think about solutions to the problems that capitalism faces people with. 
But the problem is still the same, the solution is still the same, and 
unless people figure it out we will suffer immeasurably."

There's nowhere, is there, in the Grundrisse or anywhere else where Marx 
ever got beyond merely noting this prospect, and the consequent 
enlargement of the reserve army of labor worldwide and increasing 
immiseration; not commenting beyond that on what it meant in practical 
terms for the socialist project. Except to repeatedly stress that the 
ineradicable, inexorable antagonism between capital and labor is at 
bottom the determinant of the outcome, and that the collapse of the 
legitimacy of this system as those antagonisms and contradictions 
enlarge will produce as Marx said its own gravediggers.]

Michael Hudson:

“...indebting labor means that it no longer is necessary to hire 
strikebreakers to attack union organizers and strikers.

Workers have become so deeply indebted on their home mortgages, credit 
cards and other bank debt that they fear to strike or even to complain 
about working conditions. Losing work means missing payments on their 
monthly bills, enabling banks to jack up interest rates to levels that 
used to be deemed usurious. So debt peonage and unemployment loom on top 
of the wage slavery that was the main focus of class warfare a century 
ago. And to cap matters, credit-card bank lobbyists have rewritten the 
bankruptcy laws to curtail debtor rights, and the referees appointed to 
adjudicate disputes brought by debtors and consumers are subject to veto 
from the banks and businesses that are mainly responsible for inflicting 

Read the rest of Michael Hudson’s “The Financial War Against the Economy 
at Large” at 

Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com

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