Someone recently asked me why I’m relatively optimistic about the revolutionary potential of the next ten to twenty years. I wasn’t sure how to reply and I just sort of listed off a bunch of factors: the necessity of response to environmental catastrophe, recent protests, the immense power of social media and so on and so forth. All these are reasonable points, but here’s what I think I should have said:
I don’t know why real wages all but froze in the early to mid seventies. I do have a favourite guess though. With the decline of trade barriers labour was forced to become more competitive.
Now if this is true, it explains the collapse of class struggle from around this time to the seventies. Labour had less power and fighting back in some senses reduced its economic value (labour is being disobedient? Offshore!). Thus social peace reigned and the bosses gained more. The workers were lucky to hold what they had.
But if I’m right about this, I suspect I’m right about another thing too. As Marx put it:
This organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party [Sic!], is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier.
-Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
So here’s why I’m hopeful. I suspect Resistance will reform, next time globally. Then there will be nowhere left for them to run, that is to say there will be no one left for them to play us off against. One might say that the solidarity of the working class will be complete. I would conjecture, perhaps more out of optimism than evidence, that the extraordinary rise in resistance since about 2011 is the beginning of our recomposition.
If this is correct, then things could be very close to the end indeed.
Observe the astonishing internationalism of these movements. The global support networks that form, the phenomena of incredibly rapid waves of transnational revolutionary activity popping up and feeding off each other, giving no warning. Yes the internationalism of these new mass protest movements is thus far more symbolic than material, but the sentiment is there and can be built on.
None of this is to say of course that global patterns of resistance are new. They’ve been with us from the period immediately following the end of the first world war, up to the globalize justice campaigns. But there seems to me to be an exceptional and fascinating quality of global solidarity to Wisconsin, Egypt, Spain, Tunisia, New York, Turkey, and Brazil. Both in how these movements relate to each other, and in how the world relates to them. Just as steps were taken to prevent one worker being played against another through early unionism, soon I hope the same pattern will be replicated between nations.