18 April 2013

If the left won't go global, it can’t win

I want first to rescue Callicles’s very valuable observation from the obscurity of the comments section:
[T]he experience of previous generations has shown that labor organizing repeatedly suffers from failures to update targets and strategy as the nature of the economy changes. So worker organizing becomes anachronistic and (as a result) stagnant. The flip side is that there can be transformational bursts of activity when the right target comes into view. When the UAW made the jump from plant-by-plant organizing to taking on the giant of GM in its entirety, at the national level, this was such a moment. Capital was coming to operate as a nationwide system, and needed to be confronted at that level. 
My thought is that, today, we can't make a dent in class forces in our country because class forces can no longer be confronted on the national level; taking on something like the Walmart global supply chain would then be analogous to taking on GM as a whole.
To this I would only add that the legislative and regulatory framework that provides the terrain for labor politics should be included as well. In other words, an effective progressive agenda would have to move to the global level both to directly confront corporations and to change the global rules that corporations play by.

As Callicles implies, there are some very strong and instructive parallels between the situation in which the left now finds itself and that which prevailed in the early days of the Great Depression in the United States. During the prosperous years of the Roaring Twenties, progressives had been left disoriented and demoralized by the failure of “the masses” to mobilize against the elite. The stock market crash of 1929 and deepening economic crisis after a brief false recovery opened up new possibilities both within the political elite—parts of which slowly began to question the old laissez faire doctrines—and within the population as whole, whose hopes of a prosperous future were brutally revealed to be as bankrupt as the financial system.

07 April 2013

Vision and Strategy in Globalized Supply Chains: The Case of Walmart

Following Deckard’s response to Occupy.com, this is the second in a series of posts to be featured on Permanent Crisis offering an in-depth examination of the possibilities for a new, internationally-oriented left politics. It is prompted by the conviction that some kind of internationalist stance must again become available on the left if the idea of a post-capitalist society is to cease to seem a mere chimera, and instead to once again appear as a live option to the multitudes currently being crushed beneath the weight of a global regime of austerity. It is also prompted by the sense that any purportedly radical politics, if it is to live up to its name, must realize that its defeat is already sealed so long as it ultimately remains limited, in its theory and practice, to the horizon of the nation-state. The unprecedented global reach and international mobility of capital in the post-Fordist era demands the formulation of a similarly global vision on the left that is rooted in the historical reality of the current moment, most notably in the protracted social devastation unfolding in the form of the general crisis of neoliberal capitalism.

02 April 2013

Neoliberalism is a road to climate apocalypse

The threat of climate change looms in the background of any sensible discussion of humanity's future (see some handy summaries of the outlook here and here). The grim message is this: if progressive political forces fail to deal with this problem, then nothing else we achieve will matter very much for very long.

By 2100, this is what an exceptionally good growing season could look like in the Midwest

It is absolutely imperative that we deal with climate change. It is therefore also imperative that we overcome neoliberalism. This is because the actions we need to take in order to put the brakes on climate change are incompatible with neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is therefore a road to climate apocalypse.