Nate's blog

Socialist electoralism and the capitalist state

occupy the ballot?

This blog post raises some questions posed by the election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council and related developments, questions for people who are pro- and who are anti- this kind of electoral effort.

Some of my friends and comrades have written about the election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council and related developments, here and here.

Scaling the wall: what to do if you get stuck while reading Marx’s Capital

Lots of people who start Karl Marx's Capital get stuck somewhere in the early chapters of volume 1. In this post, I make some suggestions about how to get unstuck and read the whole book.

In 1998 I started trying to read Karl Marx’s Capital, volume 1. I failed. I tried again, and failed. I tried again, and failed. This happened repeatedly over the next four or five years. I would get fifty or so pages in, get confused or bored, and give up.

Venture syndicalism: fanning and dousing the flames of discontent

99% needs a raise

Article from the Industrial Worker newspaper on fast food strikes in the U.S.

Currently, organizations funded by unions are trying to win legislation requiring higher pay in the U.S. fast food industry under slogans like “Fight for a Fair Economy” Pay increases are great, but these efforts fit into something I called “venture syndicalism” in a column last month.

"No politics in the union"? Come off it


This blog post argues that "No politics" is a bad idea and an inaccurate description of the IWW.

There’s a kind of common sense about the IWW, among some members and some nonmembers that says “the IWW is apolitical.” I think that’s a weird idea.

Review of The Soul at Work by Franco Berardi

Book review about Franco Berardi's The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy

In the discussion on a blog post that Joseph Kay wrote the conversation turned briefly to 'class composition'. This is a term used by some people in the Italian New Left, particularly a current called 'operaismo'.

Occupy vs eviction: radicals, reform, and dispossession

Blog post about anti-foreclosure and eviction struggles, and reformism and radicals in mass movements more generally.

Occupy vs Eviction: Radicals, Reform, and Dispossession

No more double-edged swords

In this post I argue that we should build organizations that can't be used as instruments for enforcing capitalist social relationships.

No more double-edged swords: institutions that reinforce capitalism

In his short, readable book Historical Capitalism, Immanuel Wallerstein writes about movements that sought to take state power in the twentieth century. He says that when

Hypotheses on reform and repression in the United States

Speculative remarks on political trends in the present U.S.

Hypotheses on reform and repression in the United States

Capitalism and planning

Blog post about the idea that planning and capitalism are different things.

I remember a lot of talk in the air growing up about The Market and how it would take care of things if we just trust it. This vision is in part a political claim about the actions of the state and other actors, that the market will just take care of things if only people would stop messing around politically trying to control economic activity.

Sometimes it feels like


Blog post about lacking vocabulary to talk about important economic changes we've experienced, and how that lack of vocabulary hurts us.

I walked in to the grocery store with a big smile, I could almost feel that check in my wallet. Beth was a god damn champ to loan me that money. Maybe I'd buy some beers and food to fix a good dinner for the whole crew of us. Would it be weird to do that with money she loaned me? I was going to pay it all back anyway so it'd be all right. Plus Beth liked beer and was always so chilled out.

Navigating negotiations


Nate Hawthorne takes a look at how labor-capital structures of negotiation have changed in response to worker militancy and the state changing how it deals with what capitalists do. Along the way he gets into Joe Burns' new book, the ILWU-EGT conflict, the Occupy movement and 'direct unionism'.

Recently Occupy activists helped the ILWU win a new contract.

Making our languages for politics

tower of babel

Nate Hawthorne on the libertarian communist milieu and the language we use.

We live after a shipwreck at sea, the water slaps at us, strong winds rush at us, we fear sharks and rocks, and the sun bakes. Worst of all are the days of dead calm. Will we float here forever? We disagree about much – what sort of craft, how shall it be propelled, which direction to go?

After the next storm passes


Article speculating on possible outcomes in Occupy, current anti-austerity struggles, and radical involvement.

Here’s what I think may be going on in the present today. A lot more people are interested in fighting. The official powers that be are not disposed to negotiations and concessions.

Armed struggles metaphors and a right-wing structure of feeling

Mad Tea Party

Article on political metaphors and imagery

Influential right wing leaders like Sarah Palin “routinely drop words like ‘tyranny’ and ‘socialism,’" writes Matt Bai in a New York Times article, “A Turning Point in the Discourse, but in Which Direction?” Bai points out that these politicians talks this way "as if blind to the idea that Americans legitimately faced with either enemy would almost certainly take up arms.” Bai quotes other right w

Marx's models and actual capitalism

Best possible world

Blog post about Marx's Capital, what it is and isn't, partially in reply to Joseph Kay.

In my view, Karl Marx's analysis of capitalism is really powerful and important. I think the best formulation of this analysis is in his book Capital, Volume 1. Joseph Kay recently wrote a blog post about a book I've not read yet, by David Graeber, and that post made me want to write this post about aspects of Marx.

Struggle changes people

This article discusses the idea that the experience of struggle and direct action transforms people.

Some of my friends and I have been saying for a while stuff like “struggle changes people” and about what we’ve called “developing” people. In this post I want to lay out some of the specific things that I think can happen in struggles, in terms of how people develop. In the first section below I try to lay out some ways that people in struggle can change.

Occupy Everything, and Everything for Everyone

Blog post about Occupy Wall Street, deportation, and demands.

This is an article about Occupy and immigration and demands. I've worked on this for a while off and on for a few months and I think this is as done as it gets. I'm sure there's more to say but this is the best I can do for now. I should also say, I'm aware that immigrant issues are in the mix in Occupy in the US to some extent and are growing, I don't say enough about that.

Reform is possible and reformism is guaranteed

An article by Nate Hawthorne responding to 'Is reform possible?' on whether significant reform is possible in contemporary capitalism, how it could happen and why it is important to consider the question.

This fall the Canadian magazine Adbusters issued a call that Occupy Wall Street take action in support of a so-called Robin Hood Tax, which would "slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day – enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the worl

Life during war time

Slightly fictionalized autobiographical short story, with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the early 1990s as background.

Life During Wartime

I got home after ten. The door was locked. I knocked and Mom answered, holding a bag of ice to a swollen lip.

“Sorry - I forgot my house keys.”

“We were up anyway. I was just getting Ricky some ice cream, you want some?”

“No,” I said, “we had ice cream in the cafeteria at intermission.”

Workers, the state, and struggle

Article about the state and ways that struggles by workers sometimes reinforce capitalism.

In 1935 the United States Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This Act is often credited by progressives with creating incredible new opportunities for the U.S. working class. The NLRA created a new regime of industrial relations in the U.S., but that change was less a matter of creating something new and was more a matter of further spreading practices that already existed.