As we prepare to post (March 2013) Insurgent Notes No. 8, the Chinese ruling class, led by its billionaire central committee, seems to be taking the timid first steps outlined in Loren Goldner’s article on the world crisis and the logic of permanent revolution. Following the statement signed by 73 Chinese academics a few months ago, warning of “violent revolution” if the huge gap between rich and poor in that country is not addressed, the party bosses, in classic bureaucratic management of appearances, have clamped down (for now) on their own conspicuous consumption and ostentatious luxury; meanwhile, hardly noticing or caring, the working class is intensifying its strike activity. As in the past, “the most dangerous moment in the life of an oppressive regime is when it sets out to reform itself,” and the Chinese red capitalists are indeed riding the tiger between the absolute need to reform and the Pandora’s box of working class revolt they are conjuring up. This perspective grounds in class struggle, which will hopefully hook up with the radicalization of workers in the advanced capitalist sector, the critique of political economy which Goldner lays out as backdrop and context.
Meanwhile, John Garvey takes a look at the worker center phenomenon in the United States and offers a few tentative assessments of its significance. The article complements very well Loren Goldner’s review/essay on Frank Bardacke’s study of Cesar Chavez. Both articles involve the legacy of Saul Alinsky–type organizing, which has shown itself able to mobilize people while avoiding any direct challenge to the capitalist system, and, when necessary (as in the case of Chavez), attacking those who pose a more radical challenge.
Matthew Quest, whose critique of CLR James’s view of Lenin we published in our previous issue (IN No. 7) now takes on the strengths and weaknesses of James’s view of Mao as well. John Garvey follows with some appropriate selections from the early work of Claude Lefort, in which Lefort develops a critique of Trotsky.
Michael Rectenwald’s “Post-Mortem on Post-Modernism” offers a synthetic overview of the rise and fall of that ideology, which actually had a bigger impact in the United States, both in the universities and as the theoretical backdrop to identity politics, than in France, where it was first developed and then faded away. As with fine wines, high fashion and most recently communization theory, a certain wing of American leftist intellectuals seem eternally susceptible to the consumption of anything with a French label. After three decades of their seemingly omnipresent efforts to present capitalism, class and the AIDS virus as “text,” the 2008 crisis and its aftermath confronted the post-modernists with a “master narrative” that clearly shattered the “prison house of language” in which they were trapped, and where we happily leave them.
Returning to our book reviews, Freddy Fitzsimmons uses two works on the de-industrialization of Britain and of its consequences for the ideological attempt to eradicate the concept of class. He presents an overview of British capitalism and class struggle within it since World War II, and above all since the post-1970s “neo-liberal” assault on British workers’ militant traditions by both Thatcher and the “kinder, gentler” New Labour.
Finally, Maury Moriarty develops a critique of the widely-read and quite serious book Black Flame on anarchism and syndicalism by two South African anarchists, Schmidt and van der Walt. Moriarity underscores the Kautskyian straw man of supposedly authoritarian “Marxism” periodically attacked by the authors, who never seem to have heard of German-Dutch council communism or of Rosa Luxemburg.