Monthly review | Beyond the enthusiasm for an imaginary anticapitalism (Los Angeles Review of Books criticizes “Can the Working Class Change the World?”)

Can the working class change the world?
218 pages, $ 19 per pack, ISBN 978-1-58367-710-0
Through Michael D. Yates

Reviewed by Joshua Sperber

… .Michael Yates Can the working class change the world? uses Marx to describe capitalism’s historically unique emphasis on the endless accumulation of capital and the resulting human and environmental catastrophes. In Capital city, Marx erected a hypothetical, ideally functioning capitalism, free from the imperfections of the real world. In doing so, he demonstrated that, even under the best of circumstances, capitalism must always be exploitative and destructive since the foundation of capitalist growth is a social relationship in which capitalists take more from wage earners than they give, thereby increasing the wealth and power. through an endless accumulation based on the misery of the working class …. We will not save ourselves from Dracula by fining him for his excesses but by planting a stake in his heart.

… .Yates, however, does not deny that significant strides have been made by leftist organizations. On the contrary, Chapter Four (“What the Working Class Did”) recounts many, often dramatic, cases in which the working class used unions and parties to improve the daily lives of ordinary people. Among other examples, Yates recounts Greg Shotwell’s description of how members of the United Auto Workers humiliated a rude foreman at a General Motors factory. Nonetheless, Yates is aware of the limits of workers’ power within inherently defensive organizations. This lesson applies not only to unions and parties, but also to left-wing NGOs, whose commitment to organizational expansion and fundraising puts them in competition with like-minded organizations at the expense of goals. common. An organization that truly sought radical improvement would be doomed, above all, to revolution and ultimately to self-negation. Rather being devoted to institutionalization and self-promotion has meant that workers’ interests are repeatedly undermined not only by bosses “outside” but also by the organizational leadership of the allies. self-proclaimed “inside”.

It is with this attention to historical shortcomings and the duplicity of leftist organizations that Yates rejects so-called democratic socialism, which, even at its peak, has failed to fundamentally challenge capitalism. Rather, aiming for the simple (and, as history shows, inevitably temporary) reform of a fundamentally exploitative system reflects a colossal failure of the prisoner-like imagination spending all his energy arguing for a greater window into the world. his cell.

Of course, we are frequently informed that organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America have dramatically increased their membership in recent years. Yet, given the intensity of our continuing economic, social and political miseries, it would be much more noticeable if the general interest in socialism had not increased. The popularity of the DSA, as well as politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, does not only reveal a growing enthusiasm for imaginary anticapitalism. On the contrary, the institutionalization of this emerging interest simultaneously excludes alternative and more radical organizational and theoretical developments – those whose aim is not diluted anticapitalism or the White House but real human liberation.

You can read the full review on Los Angeles Review of Books

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Estelle D. Eden