This issue of Insurgent Notes attempts to grapple with a number of important issues:

  1. the profound economic bind that world capitalism has been twisting itself inside out to address–without success (see the Editorial and Elephant on a Skateboard);
  2. the fundamental flaws of what might be considered “common sense” leftism as it applies to the unions (see The Demise of Andy Stern and the Question of Unions in Contemporary Capitalism;
  3. the complex character of explosive class struggles in several countries where industry still matters (see articles on China, Bangladesh, Turkey);
  4. the complex character of Marx’s thought on matters of race, nation and class (see the review of Marx at the Margins;
  5. the race between socialism and barbarism (see the article on the Gulf oil spill)

The range of articles is intended to reflect what might be considered our distinctive place in the current world revolutionary movement. We believe that we have assembled sophisticated accounts of what is really going on in the world’s capitalist economies; knowledgeable accounts of class struggles that take place far from the gaze of the world’s media; detailed summaries and critically astute analyses of complex political and economic developments; and provocative theoretical speculations about matters that are essential to an adequate understanding of how we might get from where we are to where we want to be.

The pages of this issue contain some encouraging reports–many thousands of workers across the globe are not yet resigned to simply living and dying early lives without putting up a fight. Those struggles are deeply idiosyncratic—Turkey is not China and China is not Bangladesh, and so forth—but they share some things in common—workers have been forced to and are willing to break out of legally sanctioned or customarily enforced norms (such as ethnic identities) to protect or advanced their interests and they have done so in the face of states that are consumed by the competitive logic of capitalist accumulation.

These developments suggest a question—why is it that workers in the advanced countries, with numerous legal/constitutional protections, have thus far appeared to be so unwilling to take bold, as opposed to symbolic, actions to defend themselves against the onslaught of attacks against them? Indeed, in the case of the United States, the question is a more profound one—why is it that workers, with perhaps more political freedoms than any others, have apparently been unable to even notice, in any collective fashion, the assault against them? It is not likely that the crimes and misdemeanors of the so-called progressive union leadership, embodied by Andy Stern of the SEIU, can be called upon to explain all of the absent-mindedness of the American working class but it may very well be that the traditions and customs of that class, in its organized forms (as exemplified by Stern-style unionism), to go along to get along offers an explanation. The “go-along-to-get-along” model worked so long as US capital continued to dominate the world and continued to produce at home. Once those preconditions were eliminated, it was “so long” to “get along.” But the unions and the workers, for the most part, are still living the dream or, better said, are still hoping for it to come back. They have not quite realized that it’s become a nightmare.

This brings us to the quite real nightmare of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As we publish this issue, the spill has all but vanished from the news media—as it apparently has vanished from the surface of the Gulf’s waters. The notion of “vanishing” deserves more attention than it has received. Karl Marx commented that all of the concreteness of labor vanished in money; we want to bring back all of the vanished—the people, the work that they have done, and the dreams of a new life!