<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Sandronsky World To Win

BOOK REVIEW/Seth Sandronsky

A World to Win

Leo Panitch, Greg Albo and Vivek Chibber edit probing essays in "Registering Class: Socialist Register 2014". Contributors focus in part on the economics and politics of workers’ fragmentation. Capital’s constant breaking up of the laboring class and its re-composition is a recurring theme throughout. Merchant capital looms large.

Journalist Arun Gupta fleshes out the global phenomenon of Wal-Mart. He gleans from interviews with workers and their allies the power of the behemoth retailer’s low pay, low-price business model that relies upon the extraction of wealth from the direct producers. Wal-Mart produces nothing. The company does rely on the value it many subcontractors wring from exploiting workers. Bryan D. Palmer unravels a slice of history on social class relations and dispossession. In his view, precarious employment under capitalism, in its infancy and maturity, defines the system. Capital grows its wage-labor force via dispossession of populations, from India to China and Mexico today, to England and Europe yesterday. The logic drives the grabbing of land, labor and resources for a minority of society, a viewpoint hard to find in mainstream accounts of economics and politics that justify rather than analyze the system.

Ursula Huws lays out the concrete continuities of labor, paid and unpaid, in our hyper-digital age, in contrast to the previous epochs. Her essay brings vital insights to what is (not) new to Marx’s labor theory of value. As the top end of society acquires a mind-boggling share of income and wealth, Claude Serfati considers the key role of the nation-state. His special focus on the European Union clarifies how and why the EU reproduces socially unstable class politics and economics within a global system.

What do links between a power elite in Britain, financial and political, mean for its populace and global elites? Colin Leys looks, critically, at the myriad factors at play in this push-pull process of conflicting allegiances and their impacts on the governing process that relies partly upon social legitimation to function smoothly.

Vivek Chibber questions some postcolonial theorists who separate the universality of humanity from the expanding capitalist economy. For him, this is a mistaken critique, which can fragment movements to steer the social order unduly away from the rule of capital.

William K. Carroll examines the formation of a transnational capitalist class. While a TCC reach is global, corporate governance remains rooted “in national and regional structures and cultures,” no small point for activists and theorists.

It is this domestic base of TCCs that lays bare rising contradictions of the European capitalist class, Bastiaan van Apeldoorn writes. Analyzing European integration thusly, he unravels the contradictions of austerity policies.

Apparently, the search for rational capitalists is a work in progress. Their short-term vision reigns supreme.

Turning to Brazil’s capitalist development, Virginia Fontes and Ana Garcia analyze the class dynamics of this so-called emerging market within the world system. That is say: the state’s hand to Brazilian multinationals and investment capital from abroad. As in the developed nations, state intervention is no exception. Rather, such a path is the rule in Brazil, a bid to offset the fragility the system creates.

Alfredo Saad-Filho and Lecio Morais place the recent rise of popular dissent against neoliberalism in Brazil within the context of the Lula and Dilma presidencies. Job creation and wage distribution are two metrics in the authors’ analysis, but it is their presentation of street protests and the Brazilian left that might most intrigue US readers.

Ian Macdonald considers labor unions in urban settings, sites of capital accumulation. His analysis raises questions in part of “what organizational forms and strategies” that people can use at and away from the workplace to reverse the prosperous few’s current reign. Focusing on class conditions in Britain, Andrew Murray argues that rebuilding the labor movement there is “the main task for socialists to address.” How to pursue this aim given the Labour Party’s neoliberal tilt is the question he bids to answer, no small feat.

Wrapping up the volume, Madeleine Davis and Leo Panitch, in separate essays, return us a half-century to the roots and branches of the Socialist Register. Theirs is a helpful light in these troubled and troubling time. This well-done collection inters the system’s mounting contradictions. They are many, a little like the 99%, and the class smothering them is few.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2014


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