Mayday, Work, Anti-capitalism

Short text on the nature of the anti-capitalist movement, economic crisis and the negation of the proletariat.

Submitted by Spassmaschine on July 3, 2009

In central London on Mayday, protesters demonstrate against multinationals (and much besides) while in America, tens of thousands of workers are laid off as the economy goes into crisis. The capitalist economy does more damage to itself than do the protests.

In the boom period, many workers experienced higher wages, increased personal wealth (cars and houses...), and a decrease in workplace struggle, political apathy, diminishing involvement in radical ‘politics’ as workers. This situation may be as dramatically reversed, as the fortunes of the economy surely will be. Crises of over-production are an essential product of capitalist economy. It is not a question of a "final collapse" but of the return, again, of mass layoffs, redundancies, bankruptcies, and this wipes away the empty talk of the "long boom" and the miracles of the "new economy".

The so-called anti-capitalist movement, (which has nothing to do with the likes of George Monbiot, John Vidal and Naomi Klein, darlings of the capitalist media from the Guardian to Socialist Worker) has its social base especially in marginal, temporary and part-time workers. During the boom although casualisation was a ‘strategy of capital’, i.e. of its leading functionaries, some proles nevertheless turned it to their own advantage. Casual work means less domination by work, more freedom, including more freedom to struggle ‘against capitalism’. The return of the crisis will dramatically worsen the circumstances of the casualised whose wages will drop farther and faster than of those who remain in full time permanent work. (This may be ameliorated by particular survival strategies.) It may no longer just be various aspects of capitalism which will appear as wrongs that need to be addressed. The whole life experience of the strata from which the anti-capitalists hail will feel the worst effects of a crisis endemic to the social system.

Crises hit first and foremost the private sector, as the state sector is partly shielded from the market, but compared to times of earlier crises in the post-war period, the state sector is considerably smaller, and shrinking. Furthermore, parts of the public sector face their own political crises.

Privitisation of the nationalised industries is the most obvious cause of a reduction in the public sector. In the local state sector the situation is more complicated. Here we have Compulsory Competitive Tendering and Private Funding Initiative, but especially the cutting of revenue to the local authorities. In Hackney for example, workers face cuts in wages, intensification of work or else redundancies. No doubt the council is guilty of corruption and mismanagement, but the underlying cause is the reduction of funds to local authorities and the generalised broadening of the scope of the market.

On Mayday, Hackney workers strike against cuts whilst elsewhere anti-capitalists put across a fragmented critique of capitalist society (consumerism, car culture, prisons, financial domination, control of the body, degradation of the natural environment, management/elimination of wildlife, etc.).

A generalised crisis provides a grounding for a generalised critique simultaneously practical and theoretical: economic political, social. Crisis provides a possibility (by no means a certainty) of a practical movement uniting public and private sector workers, permanently employed, casualised and non-working proletarians.

Mayday, as a workers holiday, originated from a strike movement for a shorter working day; that is, from a class movement. Later it became a celebration of workers as workers, that is, of the status quo: capitalist society. The workers movement, organised in trade unions, represented the real power of the proletariat organised in an apolitical way. That is, it dealt with workers’ economic issues but did not (and could not) pose the question of the state or capital.

The anti-capitalist movement, at its best, is determinedly political, or rather, anti-political, in that it raises the issue of the state from the point of view of its abolition. But the anti-capitalist movement lacks any social power because it lacks a social base amongst workers (as workers), despite the moments of unity and common struggle such as the Reclaim the Streets actions with the dockers, tube and rail workers.

A movement that can destroy capital will be based (partly) amongst workers but will be anti-workerist. It will be founded on the economic conditions of the proletariat but will consciously and determinedly go beyond the economic, to the social and to the political question of the state: a communist movement that ends wage labour, and in which the proletariat abolishes itself as a class, and so all other classes, creating a world human community.

Produced by 'some communists' in London, Mayday 2001. Taken from the Antagonism website.