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Lessons and Implications for Social Change | Capitalism | Working Class

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  3. Lessons and Implications for Social ChangeBoth in the 1890s and 1980s, the reversal of long economic downturns were broughtabout as a result of, among other reasons, huge transfers of income from labor tocapital. In the 1930s, by contrast, workers and other popular forces achievedemployment and income security as a result of a sustained pressure from below.  The contrast between these two entirely different types of restructuring strategiesshows how resourceful the business and government leaders can be in employing allkinds of instruments of class struggle--at times, even diametrically-opposedinstruments--in order to restore capitalist profitability, accumulation, and expansion.What are the implications of this for the future of capitalism? Does it mean that thereign of capitalism has thus become permanent, and that we have reached the endof history ?Not necessarily. It simply means that the capitalist system is much more resilientthan many of its radical opponents--especially proponents of the so-called theory of  automatic collapse --imagine; and that the course of the apparently automaticalternation of periods of economic expansion and contraction is dialecticallyintertwined with that of social developments and class struggle. It signifiescapitalism’s ability to restructure the conditions for profitability and reproduction aslong as the costly consequences of such restructuring policies in terms of job losses,economic insecurity, and environmental degradation are tolerated. More specifically,as long as the working class keeps producing according the desires and designs of the capitalist system, the reign of capital will continue. No other social class orstratum, no matter how militant or numerous, has the unique or strategic positionand capability to bring the capitalist production to a standstill--and the capitalistsystem to an end. Only the working class can play such a role. When the workerswill gain the necessary consciousness and determination to actually appropriate andutilize the existing technology for a better organization and management of theworld economy in the interests of the majority of world citizens no one can tell. Onethings is certain, however: to play such a role, the working class needs entirely newvisions and new politics. The new labor politics will need to (a) go beyond tradeunionism, (b) go beyond national borders, (c) build independent labor organizations,and (d) operate through coalitions and alliances with non-labor grassroots oppositiongroups.  Many people would view these ideas and projections as unrealistic. What theyprobably mean by this is that these proposals cannot be realized under the presentsocio-economic and political structure. And they are right. But, as this socialstructure is reorganized, many of the currently impossible alternatives will becomepossible. There is definitely no dearth of material resources for this purpose,certainly not in the US and other industrialized countries. What is lacking is thepolitical will and/or capacity to reorient the society’s priorities and reallocate itsresources. The realizability of these proposals (and the fate of capitalism),ultimately, comes down to the relationship of social forces and the balance of classstruggle.3. Lessons and Implications for Social ChangeBoth in the 1890s and 1980s, the reversal of long economic downturns were broughtabout as a result of, among other reasons, huge transfers of income from labor tocapital. In the 1930s, by contrast, workers and other popular forces achievedemployment and income security as a result of a sustained pressure from below.  The contrast between these two entirely different types of restructuring strategiesshows how resourceful the business and government leaders can be in employing allkinds of instruments of class struggle--at times, even diametrically-opposedinstruments--in order to restore capitalist profitability, accumulation, and expansion.What are the implications of this for the future of capitalism? Does it mean that thereign of capitalism has thus become permanent, and that we have reached the endof history ?Not necessarily. It simply means that the capitalist system is much more resilientthan many of its radical opponents--especially proponents of the so-called theory of  automatic collapse --imagine; and that the course of the apparently automaticalternation of periods of economic expansion and contraction is dialecticallyintertwined with that of social developments and class struggle. It signifiescapitalism’s ability to restructure the conditions for profitability and reproduction aslong as the costly consequences of such restructuring policies in terms of job losses,economic insecurity, and environmental degradation are tolerated. More specifically,as long as the working class keeps producing according the desires and designs of the capitalist system, the reign of capital will continue. No other social class orstratum, no matter how militant or numerous, has the unique or strategic positionand capability to bring the capitalist production to a standstill--and the capitalistsystem to an end. Only the working class can play such a role. When the workerswill gain the necessary consciousness and determination to actually appropriate and  utilize the existing technology for a better organization and management of theworld economy in the interests of the majority of world citizens no one can tell. Onethings is certain, however: to play such a role, the working class needs entirely newvisions and new politics. The new labor politics will need to (a) go beyond tradeunionism, (b) go beyond national borders, (c) build independent labor organizations,and (d) operate through coalitions and alliances with non-labor grassroots oppositiongroups.Many people would view these ideas and projections as unrealistic. What theyprobably mean by this is that these proposals cannot be realized under the presentsocio-economic and political structure. And they are right. But, as this socialstructure is reorganized, many of the currently impossible alternatives will becomepossible. There is definitely no dearth of material resources for this purpose,certainly not in the US and other industrialized countries. What is lacking is thepolitical will and/or capacity to reorient the society’s priorities and reallocate itsresources. The realizability of these proposals (and the fate of capitalism),ultimately, comes down to the relationship of social forces and the balance of classstruggle.3. Lessons and Implications for Social ChangeBoth in the 1890s and 1980s, the reversal of long economic downturns were broughtabout as a result of, among other reasons, huge transfers of income from labor tocapital. In the 1930s, by contrast, workers and other popular forces achievedemployment and income security as a result of a sustained pressure from below.  The contrast between these two entirely different types of restructuring strategiesshows how resourceful the business and government leaders can be in employing allkinds of instruments of class struggle--at times, even diametrically-opposedinstruments--in order to restore capitalist profitability, accumulation, and expansion.What are the implications of this for the future of capitalism? Does it mean that thereign of capitalism has thus become permanent, and that we have reached the endof history ?Not necessarily. It simply means that the capitalist system is much more resilientthan many of its radical opponents--especially proponents of the so-called theory of  automatic collapse --imagine; and that the course of the apparently automaticalternation of periods of economic expansion and contraction is dialecticallyintertwined with that of social developments and class struggle. It signifies  capitalism’s ability to restructure the conditions for profitability and reproduction aslong as the costly consequences of such restructuring policies in terms of job losses,economic insecurity, and environmental degradation are tolerated. More specifically,as long as the working class keeps producing according the desires and designs of the capitalist system, the reign of capital will continue. No other social class orstratum, no matter how militant or numerous, has the unique or strategic positionand capability to bring the capitalist production to a standstill--and the capitalistsystem to an end. Only the working class can play such a role. When the workerswill gain the necessary consciousness and determination to actually appropriate andutilize the existing technology for a better organization and management of theworld economy in the interests of the majority of world citizens no one can tell. Onethings is certain, however: to play such a role, the working class needs entirely newvisions and new politics. The new labor politics will need to (a) go beyond tradeunionism, (b) go beyond national borders, (c) build independent labor organizations,and (d) operate through coalitions and alliances with non-labor grassroots oppositiongroups.Many people would view these ideas and projections as unrealistic. What theyprobably mean by this is that these proposals cannot be realized under the presentsocio-economic and political structure. And they are right. But, as this socialstructure is reorganized, many of the currently impossible alternatives will becomepossible. There is definitely no dearth of material resources for this purpose,certainly not in the US and other industrialized countries. What is lacking is thepolitical will and/or capacity to reorient the society’s priorities and reallocate itsresources. The realizability of these proposals (and the fate of capitalism),ultimately, comes down to the relationship of social forces and the balance of classstruggle.3. Lessons and Implications for Social ChangeBoth in the 1890s and 1980s, the reversal of long economic downturns were broughtabout as a result of, among other reasons, huge transfers of income from labor tocapital. In the 1930s, by contrast, workers and other popular forces achievedemployment and income security as a result of a sustained pressure from below.  The contrast between these two entirely different types of restructuring strategiesshows how resourceful the business and government leaders can be in employing allkinds of instruments of class struggle--at times, even diametrically-opposedinstruments--in order to restore capitalist profitability, accumulation, and expansion.
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